High court won't reconsider its eminent domain ruling
Justices' verdict in Conn. case drew heavy criticism
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court, given an opportunity to revisit a heavily criticized ruling, declined yesterday to reconsider its decision giving local governments more power to seize people's homes for economic development.
The court's 5-to-4 ruling in the eminent domain case in June was so contentious that some of the critics launched a campaign to seize Justice David H. Souter's farmhouse in New Hampshire to build a luxury hotel.
Others singled out Justice Stephen G. Breyer's vacation home in New Hampshire for use as a park.
Both Souter and Breyer voted on the prevailing side, in favor of such seizures. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who did not, criticized her colleagues at the time. She said in a minority opinion that the ruling favored the well-heeled.
In addition, legislators in about 25 states are considering softening the impact of their laws on eminent domain, a legal concept by which federal, state, or local authorities may force a private landowner to sell property at fair market value, in what the authorities deem to be the public interest. The eminent domain process is also known as condemnation.
Justices did not comment yesterday on their refusal to reconsider the case. Requests for reconsiderations are rarely granted.
O'Connor wrote in her dissent that ''the specter of condemnation hangs over all property." It was one of her last opinions; she has decided to retire and President Bush has named Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to replace her.
Legal specialists had said they did not expect the court's ruling, involving an economic development project in New London, Conn., to prompt a government rush to claim homes.
Stevens said ''the public outcry" that followed the ruling ''is some evidence that the political process is up to the task of addressing such policy concerns."