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Takings Clause

The last clause of the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution is knows as the Takings Clause. This clause is directly aligned to the topic of eminent domain as outlined in the Constitution. Under eminent domain, the government has the ability to seize private property when it benefits the public. This might include the seizure of property that will be used for roads, government buildings, schools, and the cases of redevelopment of disparaged areas of a city.

The Takings Clause limits the power of the government in issues of eminent domain by requiring the government to pay just compensation to the owner for the seized property. Just compensation is defined as fair market value for the property and is sometimes determined by a third party source. Takings ClauseFor example if a state or government wanted to build a new courthouse they could begin by offering the owner fair market value for the property in hopes that the owner will willingly sell the property. If the owner refuses to sell the property to the government they can take the case to the courts under the 5th Amendment allowance for the government’s eminent domain. The state must provide evidence of the way the new property will be used as public use or to benefit the public. Under Takings Clause, if the court rules in favor of the state then they must offer the owner fair market value for the property.

Originally the idea of eminent domain only applied to the United States government, but since the case of Chicago, B&Q Railroad Company vs. Chicago (1897) courts have held that states also can seize property with the power of eminent domain.

There is some controversy surrounding the government’s interpretation of eminent domain and in turn Takings Clause. In some cases, states and smaller local governments have seized privately owned land to become commercial land owned by a private developer. An example of this happened in 2005 with the Kelo v. City of New London. In this case the judges ruled, in a 5-4 decision, in favor of the City of New London and their plans for land development. It was viewed that the development would provide revenue and jobs to the city and in turn that was enough evidence to show that the development would benefit the public. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was against the decision and argued that this interpretation of the law would blur the line between benefitting the public and benefitting a private owner. She also argued that those benefiting from this interpretation would be large politically connected corporations and businesses.

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