by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
That’s how New Jersey Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez described a recent attempt by the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to take a citizen’s home. Ilya Somin discusses the ruling, which was handed down last friday, at the Volokh Conspiracy:
Under the New Jersey state constitution (as in nearly all other states) the state can only take property for a “public use,” and only if it is authorized by the legislature.
In this case, the court ruled that there is no public use, and no legislative authorization either, because the CRDA did not have any clear plan for what it was going to do with the Birnbaum family’s house:
In this Court’s view, the CRDA is not empowered to condemn a property only to have it sit idly, for years on end, as they wait for the right project to present itself. This has already happened in many of the surrounding properties that sit vacant waiting for a project to come forward …..[T]o meet constitutional and statutory muster, to justify the taking of the Birnbaum property, there must be some reasonable assurance that the Birnbaums’ property will be put to a public use within the next year or the next ten years.
Because the CRDA was essentially trying to condemn the property to “bank land in the hopes that it will be used in a future undefined project,” Judge Mendez ruled that the condemnation was “a manifest abuse of the eminent domain power.”
It’s another great win for the property rights defenders at the Institute for Justice.