Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 95 E300
Location: Inside my head
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 392 Post(s)
Battle over ruling comes knocking at justice's door
By Kathy McCormack
Published January 22, 2006
CONCORD, N.H. -- Angered by a Supreme Court ruling last year that gave local governments more power to seize people's homes for economic development, activists are trying to get one of the court's justices evicted from his own home.
A group led by a California man wants Justice David Souter's home seized to build an inn called the "Lost Liberty Hotel."
The activists submitted enough petition signatures--only 25 were needed--to bring the matter before voters in March, and this weekend they came to Souter's hometown, Weare, N.H., to rally support.
"This is in the tradition of the Boston Tea Party and the Pine Tree Riot," organizer Logan Darrow Clements said, referring to a riot in the winter of 1771-72, when colonists in Weare beat up officials appointed by King George III who fined them for logging white pines without approval.
"All we're trying to do is put an end to eminent domain abuse," Clements said, by having those who advocate or facilitate it "live under it, so they understand why it needs to end."
Bill Quigley, deputy police chief of Weare, population 8,500, said any protesters would be told to stay across the street from a dirt road that leads to Souter's farmhouse.
"They're obviously not going to be allowed on Justice Souter's property," he said.
Clements of Los Angeles said he has never tried to contact Souter, who was in the majority in the 5-4 decision, Kelo vs. City of New London.
"The justice doesn't have any comment" on the protesters' cause, said Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg.
The petition asks whether the town should take Souter's land for development as an inn, whether to set up a trust fund to accept donations for legal expenses, and whether to set up a second trust fund to accept donations to compensate Souter for his land. The matter goes to voters on March 14.
About 25 volunteers gathered at Weare Town Hall on Saturday before setting out in teams to go door-to-door.
Clements gathered nine signatures in under an hour, with only one resident declining to sign. He also distributed copies of the high court's ruling, in which it said New London, Conn., could seize homeowners' property to develop a hotel, convention center, office space and condos next to Pfizer Inc.'s new research headquarters.
The city argued that tax revenues and new jobs from the development would benefit the public. The Pfizer complex was built, but seven homeowners challenged the rest of the development in court. The Supreme Court's ruling against them prompted many states, including New Hampshire, to examine their eminent domain laws.
Supporters of the hotel project planned a rally Sunday at the town hall.
State Rep. Neal Kurk, a Weare resident who is sponsoring two pieces of eminent domain legislation in New Hampshire, said he expects the group's proposal to be defeated overwhelmingly.
"Most people here see this as an act of revenge and an improper attack on the judicial system," Kurk said. "You don't go after a judge personally because you disagree with his judgments."