Judicial Attacks on individual Property Rights in the spotlight – from Kelo to Telluride, with Sotomayor in between

The recent nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to succeed retiring justice David Souter on the United States Supreme Court has generated increased scrutiny on the power of the judiciary to endorse and validate government seizures of private property.  Joining the notorious 2005 Kelo vs. New London case at the Federal level, and the outrageous Telluride Land Grab case decided a year ago yesterday (2 June 2008) here in Colorado, is a lesser-known ruling by Judge Sotomayor in 2006 (Didden v. Village of Port Chester).

A recent article by distinguished law professor Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago characterized Sotomayor’s ruling in this case as an even worse attack on property rights (and individual protections) than Kelo:

The case involved about as naked an abuse of government power as could be imagined. Bart Didden came up with an idea to build a pharmacy on land he owned in a redevelopment district in Port Chester over which the town of Port Chester had given Greg Wasser control. Wasser told Didden that he would approve the project only if Didden paid him $800,000 or gave him a partnership interest. The “or else” was that the land would be promptly condemned by the village, and Wasser would put up a pharmacy himself. Just that came to pass. But the Second Circuit panel on which Sotomayor sat did not raise an eyebrow.

So Sotomayor and the Second Circuit essentially endorsed a thuggish extortion racket “pay-to-play” move by a small-time tinpot dictator controlling a local redevelopment district.  Having spent some time overseas, this sounds more like the kind of 3rd World corruption you’d find in some of the worst-governed corners of the globe, not the United States of America.  Or is that the new standard on the East Coast?  “Back to the Future” of Boss Tweed and machine-style politics?

As Epstein notes, “American business should shudder in its boots” – to say nothing of individuals owning homes (Kelo) or other property (Telluride) over which government casts a covetous eye.  When outright theft is justified in the name of law – who can respect the law?  We MUST restore accountability to our judiciary – and restore the rule of law – before it’s too late.

In Colorado, we have that opportunity – vote “NO” on retaining the unjust justices who perpetrated the Telluride Land Grab when they must face the voters in 2010.

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