My first reaction to this major supreme court ruling was that the bad guys won. I think, though the court had a point when it said local officials are in a better position to decide when eminent domain should and should not be used, Sandra Day O'Conner said it best with,
"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."
It's naive to think that said local officials will not tend to unduly ignore the 'little guy' in favor of well-connected development interests with the ability to oil the various bureaucratic wheels of government. I'm not sure I trust my local official more than some remote judge to impartially and effectively decide when eminent domain should be employed, and to compensate fairly those impacted.
My considered reaction is that perhaps, just perhaps, this precedent is much larger than anyone is imagining.
There's nothing necessarily limiting this ruling to land property, or even physical property. What happens when some organization with nominal jurisdiction claims eminent domain over some intellectual property? Could a city council reassign music copyrights from local record labels back to local artists? Could some governmental body grab a patent from one entity and sell it to another?
Could Brazil use this SCOTUS decision to reassign the brazillian patents for various AIDS drugs from U.S. companies to the brazillian public domain, in the name of the public good, without the hassles of nationalization?
Here's what I'll say: this thing is bigger than it appears, and I don't know what's going to happen.
I invite you to leave your comment.