JLF’s Director of Legal Studies, Jon Guze, writes that North Carolina earned a C- in eminent domain law. Only 18 other states do worse.

As explained in the John Locke Foundation’s Freedom in North Carolinareport, North Carolina’s failure to adequately protect private property from eminent domain abuse is one of the primary reasons why we languish in the bottom half of states, both nationally and regionally in the “regulatory freedom” category.

An eminent domain reform bill passed by the N.C. House last week would improve our Castle Coalition grade and move us into the top half of states that afford its citizens the most freedom from regulatory burdens.

For readers who aren’t familiar with the phrase, “eminent domain” refers to the government’s power to take private property without the owner’s permission. Throughout most of American history, it was assumed that this power could only be exercised when the property in question was needed by the government for its own use, e.g., roads, military bases, and other public facilities, or for use by a “common carrier,” i.e., a private company like a railroad or utility that is obliged by law to serve the public. Most assumed that these restrictions were implicit in the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states, “Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” In 2005, however, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Kelo v. City of New London, and the American public was shocked to discover that both of those assumptions were wrong.

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