Eminent Domain Evictions

"They have sent us eviction letters and have given us 90 days to vacate." -- Michael Cristofaro, New London, Connecticut homeowner

The final step in the eminent domain process is about to occur in New London, Connecticut. Susette Kelo and her neighbors were condemned by the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) in 2000. They challenged the taking all the way to the United States Supreme Court and lost in a controversial 5-4 decision. See decision in Kelo v. New London. On August 22, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to reconsider the case.

The reaction to the Kelo decision has been strong and consistent. People are outraged. They did not realize government could take their homes and they further did not realize that some takings are not for the traditional public purposes such as highways, schools, or parks. Some takings, such as the NLDC acquisitions are for redevelopment where the taking agency transfers title to the property taken to a designated developer for redevelopment with a project which benefits the private developer, and indirectly the city, with new tax revenues and construction.

Susette Kelo and her neighbors were served with eviction notices and demands for back rent by NLDC in early September. The letters said, "You are required to quit possession of the premises no later than December 8, 2005." Homeowner Michael Cristofaro told World Net Daily, "As further insult to injury they are requiring us to send $600 a month rent." According to the Hartford Courant, the letters from the New London Development Corporation stirred a tempest of emotions and a crossfire of recriminations between lawyers for the seven homeowners and officials of the NLDA, with each side accusing the other of lying.

It was only the intervention of Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell which saved, at least temporarily, the New London property owners from being physically evicted from their homes. Bowing to the Governor's order, the NLDC agreed to rescind the eviction notices sent to the New London homeowners, as reported in the North Country Gazette:

Earlier this week, the NLDC had broken its word and defied both Governor Rell and the Connecticut legislature by breaking a moratorium it had agreed to abide by that was called for by both the governor and legislature. Three Fort Trumbull residents received eviction notices stating that they must vacate the properties in 30 to 90 days and must start paying rent to the NLDC during that period. NLDC President Michael Joplin claimed that the moratorium on eminent domain applied only to new cases and not to the homes in New London, and that additional eviction notices would be forthcoming....

Michael Cristofaro, one of the homeowners, said, "We've always wanted to stay. We still want to stay. We just want the NLDC and the City to leave us alone. We are so grateful to Gov. Rell for coming to our aid."

"Reform efforts in dozens of others states across the nation are watching what's going on in Connecticut," said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice. "There is tremendous public outrage over eminent domain abuse, outrage which only continues to grow. The public is demanding that legislators restore legal protection to property in the wake of the Kelo decision."

There will be violent confrontations if these types of takings are allowed to go forward. It's inevitable. A crowd turned angry and a woman was arrested as police officers turned away people from a New London City Council meeting involving the eminent domain case last Monday night.

Only the moratorium on further eminent domain proceedings imposed by Governor Rell in Connecticut saved the homeowners while the legislature in Connecticut considers changes to the eminent domain laws. Changes are by no means a sure thing.
Connecticut State Representative Themis Klarides wrote in the Orange Bulletin:

The real remedy for Kelo, and people in Connecticut who are currently or potentially the subject of such an attempt to take their private property, is for the laws of Connecticut to be changed. This week, House Minority Leader Robert Ward (R-North Branford) and House Republicans began a drive for a petition to be signed by legislators to call a special legislative session to address the issue of eminent domain. At a number of junctures in the last legislative session, Democrats defeated efforts to make remedies to Connecticut's eminent domain laws nearly along party lines.

Meanwhile, the September 22 edition of the Atlanticville reports that New Jersey homeowners in Long Branch New Jersey are about to be condemned for Beachfront North Phase II. The City of Long branch in a 4-1 vote approved sending the remaining 36 home owners a 14-day letter saying in effect, negotiate the sale or you will be condemned. There's going to be opposition to these takings and if the property owners lose, and the legislature doesn't act, there will be forcible evictions.

Under the New Jersey Eminent Domain Act of 1971 (N.J.S.A 20:3-19), the condemnor acquires all right, title, and interest to the property condemned upon the filing of the "Declaration of Taking" and the deposit of the estimated compensation into Superior Court Trust Funds. The Long Branch property owners will file answers and oppose the right to take the property. This issue will be heard by Monmouth County Assignment Judge Lawrence Lawson on the return date of the Order to Show Cause for the appointment of condemnation commissioners. The appointment of condemnation commissioners is a final judgment on the condemning authority's use of eminent domain to acquire the property: State vs. Orenstein 124 N.J.Super. 295 (App. Div.) 1973.

Anna DeFaria, a 79-year old widow and more than 40-year resident on Marine View Terrace has vowed fight to the end for her home. There's precedent here as homeowner Bruce MacCloud, whose case is scheduled for trial October 11, 2005, was forcibly evicted from his home on Cooper Avenue in November 2002. According to news reports, MacCloud was confronted by four armed police officers who took the necessary steps to remove him from the premises. Remember the recent scenes depicting the heart-wrenching eviction of Jewish settlers in Gaza? Scenes like this are about to be repeated in the United States. How can public officials be so heartless and developers so greedy?

"These guys need to learn when to treat human beings like human beings, not like barn animals," said Richard Beyer, a developer who owns houses in Parcel 3 of the New London project. "This is their trademark," Beyer told the Hartford Courant. "They go in and disrupt people's lives."

On the same day Susette Kelo testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on eminent domain abuse, Washington Times published her commentary:

If the government was taking our property for a road or firehouse, I would be prepared to sell without a fight. But the government should not be able to force me to sell my home so someone else can enjoy my view. NLDC wants my land to market to a developer for projects to "complement" our area's new Pfizer facility. This is for private profit, not public use.
Nearly all my neighbors' homes have been bulldozed -- all but those seven families who stayed and fought not only for our rights, but for the rights of homeowners nationwide.
Like my neighbors up the street, I worked hard (in my case, at up to three jobs at a time) to pay for my home. And we should not be forced out by our own government simply because someone else who carries more political clout wants the land for a nonpublic use. Isn't that what the courts, Congress and the Constitution are supposed to protect us from?

Last Tuesday the Connecticut woman asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to end the federal government's involvement in such seizures, Newsday reported. Susette Kelo said , "I sincerely hope that Congress will do what judges and local legislators so far have refused to do for me and for thousands of people like me across the nation: protect our homes."

"They're going to have to rip my fingers off this house before I leave," New London homeowner Mike Cristofaro told WFSB Eyewitness News.

He echoed the sentiments of New Jersey resident Anna DeFaria, who told WPIX that she will not leave her home in Long Branch. "I told them, they're going to take me out in handcuffs. They're going to take me out in handcuffs."

View the WPIX-Report on Long Branch Beachfront North Project. ###

See related blogs:

The Volokh Conspiracy

...the dispute re-energized calls for a statutory moratorium on land-takings until the General Assembly can agree on how to permanently limit the use of eminent domain - suddenly a potent political issue for the 2006 gubernatorial and legislative races. -- Todd Zywicki

Buzzy Blog

New London, CT voters may strike back hard this Tuesday, September 27, in a city budget referendum. (see Tom Blumer's comment below)
The second tribulation visited on New London comes from the threat that residents will take their anger from the Fort Trumbull dispute and apply it to the city budget referendum scheduled Tuesday. When people are angry, it's convenient to direct their feelings at anything in front of them. The foul mood in New London has now struck the budget vote.--Morgan McGinley

Written By:Tom Blumer On September 25, 2005 7:12 PM

Glad someone else is paying attention. According to Todd Zywicki at Volokh, the Gov forced a rescission of the eviction orders:


Written By:Ms. Silvers On November 10, 2005 12:10 PM

Don't you think it's time we the people finally stand up for what we work hard for? Let's try not voting that particular party in office for another term and also stop putting bandaids on problems that require a more permanent solution. We the people control how business is conducted not the elected officials, and if they are not for the people get them out of office!

It's time to let them know this.

Written By: E. Parris On February 5, 2006 8:52 PM

Today, I read that the Supreme Court had not protected Anna DeFaria's right to be secure and safe in her own home. That, by using the power of the government abusively and wickedly against this one little 80-yr. old woman, a private company has wrenched her home away from her. Some rich developers want her sea-side view, because it doesn't sit well for them that this non-wealthy, working class woman should have what they want. She has held on to her land for 40 years, surely paid for it many times over in exorbitant taxes and she has been a fine, upstanding, honest citizen. The judges that failed Anna Defaria should be impeached. The city officials who voted against Anna Defaria should be voted out immediately, and their personal financial lives should be investigated down to the last penny to see if betraying the rights of their constituents profitted them or their families, or if they were just jealous because 40 years ago their parents did not purchase and hold onto beachfront property. How many of those officials or their families live in those particular private developers' condominiums?
In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote, "...to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,-That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." To me, all of our present government representatives who have put big businesses ahead of the rights of the common man have abused the power put into their hands, and those people should be abolished from government. If they upheld eminent domain for the profit of private developers...if they put in mandatory insurance laws for the profit of the insurers...if they put our people in danger to protect their foreign partners in the oil industry...any vote they made, any law they tendered, any view they presented which revealed that they must be profitting personally from the losses of their constituents should be the signal for a concerted effort from all the citizens of this country to remove them from public office. (There is no logical way that a government official can claim to represent the views of their constituents if they are directly instrumental in financially or physically harming a large number of those very constituents!) The next person who loses everything that they have worked for all of their lives may be you, personally, or your family.
Anna DeFaria, I personally believe that you earned your seaside view and your little home. I will pray for you, and I believe that God has a way of punishing those who do wicked things. And I believe that there are many people in America that are not jealous of the little that you had, and can understand how hard it must have been for you to hold on for so long against such morally corrupt officials. I know that many elder people who lose their homes of so many years lose their will to live, but I hope that you will continue to fight for the rest of us. You are the epitome of the best of our citizens, and your maltreatment at the hands of our government should become a scarlet letter that every developer, official, and judge involved should have to wear on their shirts for the world to see. You should raise a public outcry everywhere you go, be on Oprah, Today, and 60 Minutes. It is amazing to me that our government officials could even raise a whisper about human rights abuses in other countries when they allow such abuses in their own!

Written By:Rachele K On October 14, 2006 10:33 AM

Thomas Jefferson said, "when an industrialized president rules this country tyranny would follow." Our founding fathers are rolling over in their graves.

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