An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

Connecticut declared that the city of New London was a “distressed municipality.” As a means to improve the economy, New London planned to acquire property in the Ft. Trumbull neighborhood and transfer it to Pfizer. The pharmaceutical company pledged to construct a new research facility on this site. The city expected that its plan would create new jobs, increase tax revenues, and improve the area’s recreational opportunities.

Initially, New London tried to purchase the homes in Ft. Trumbull, including Susette Kelo’s little pink house. However, Kelo and her neighbors—some of whom had lived in their houses for their entire lives—refused to sell. In response, the city commenced condemnation proceedings. New London would use its eminent domain powers to acquire the properties in exchange for “just compensation.”

Kelo filed suit in state court to halt the condemnation proceedings. She alleged that the city’s taking was not for a “public use.” According to the development plan, most of the condemned property would be transferred to private parties.

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