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New Jersey eminent domain laws permit government 'misuses': official report

[JURIST] The New Jersey Department of the Public Advocate [official website] released a report [PDF text; press release] Tuesday detailing cases of abuse of New Jersey's eminent domain [JURIST news archive] laws, which the report criticized for being giving "overbroad statutory authority" that allowed the government to take "homes and businesses without meeting the basic principles of fairness enshrined in the New Jersey Constitution." The report cited specific instances of "bogus blight," including one in which a the Long Beach city planners declared an entire neighborhood to be "obsolescent" and "underutilized" based on one city inspector's finding that three homes in the neighborhood were in "poor" condition. The report also described instances of "due process deprivations," in which property owners were not informed that their property may be condemned or were denied a "fair hearing." The Department also found "potential conflicts of interest" with public officials standing to benefit from redevelopment projects being pursued.

This latest report by the Department of the Public Advocate is a follow up to a report [PDF text] released last year. The previous report recommended that legislators enact laws that

tighten the definition of 'blighted-area'; make the process for utilizing eminent domain powers more fair, open and transparent; and require compensation at a level that allows people to remain their own communities.
Dozens of states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina have enacted legislation restricting the use of eminent domain [JURIST report] as a response to the 2005 US Supreme Court Kelo v. New London [opinion text; JURIST report] decision, which held that private redevelopment conferring economic benefits on a community qualifies as a "public use" allowing local governments to expropriate private property under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment [text]. The Philadelphia Inquirer has more.

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