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Ohio Supreme Court strikes down eminent domain for pure economic gain

[JURIST] The Ohio Supreme Court [official website] ruled 7-0 Wednesday that a Cincinnati suburb may not use eminent domain [JURIST news archive] to take private property on the sole basis of economic benefit to the community. Several residents of Norwood held out on selling their homes to make way for a $125 million commercial development, and after a consulting firm found that the structures themselves did not qualify as blighted or deteriorated, which would satisfy the Ohio Constitution's "public use" requirement [text], the City Council voted to use eminent domain to take the properties. After an Ohio appeals court upheld the legality of the takings, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed [opinion text, PDF; summary], holding that the public use provision of the state Constitution is not satisfied when only economic factors inform the decision, and that the "deteriorating area" language of a state eminent domain statute is overly ambiguous and thus void.

Norwood v. Horney is the first eminent domain challenge decided by a state supreme court since the US Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. New London [text] in June 2005 that local authorities may expropriate private land, homes and businesses for private redevelopment [JURIST report] under the "public use" clause of the US Constitution if the taking conferred community economic benefits, such as tax revenue and jobs. The decision ignited public protest [JURIST report] because of its apparent disregard for private property rights and prompted the legislatures of more than 25 states to consider measures that could limit the ability of city and county governments [JURIST report] to invoke eminent domain to take property for retail, office or residential development. The Ohio decision does not conflict with the Supreme Court precedent in Kelo as Norwood interprets the Ohio constitution and Kelo interpreted the US Constitution. AP has more.

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