Property Rights Foundation of America®

Panel IV—The Eminent Domain Battleground


James E. Morgan
Galvin and Morgan, Attorneys, Delmar, N.Y.

Thank you very much. Part of chairing this panel at the end of the day is to keep my remarks short, which I plan to do. Very briefly, at the advantage of having listened to the entire presentation thus far, I have two observations. And there are two points I would like to make.

Some of you remember me from other conferences. In the past, I have described how we have been representing a group on Long Island involving the Pine Barrens for many years now. My first observation arises from this experience. It has been over seven years we have been representing the group. They are those individuals and people who have owned land in the core area of the Pine Barrens on Long Island. All they wanted was equity and that is all they have been seeking, and many times, when we took over the lawsuits that have been brought, they would have accepted the use of eminent domain to take their property. Instead what that Pine Barrens Plan left them with was paying the taxes on their property or letting it go for taxes. It is impossible for them to do anything with the property even though there supposedly is a system where they can get a hardship exemption, which is something akin to being able to walk to the moon.

Secondly, I observed that one of the dissenters in the Kelo case was Sandra Day O'Connor, and she was being interviewed on TV shortly after she announced her retirement. Someone asked her about the Kelo case. She said that people shouldn't be surprised at the way the court held generally, because the court generally wants to leave control of land use in the local hands.

So I wanted to point out something. There is a theme throughout all of our presentations today. We talked about these new, I call them, these crazy plans to depopulate areas to return the Earth to a state it will never see again, even if the human race were extinct tomorrow, and things of that nature. Those things are not going to happen or shouldn't happen, but, where we have to carry our battle, is still in the local arena. We can't believe that a new president or a new party in control either way is going to change the circumstances until we convince enough of the local government, the local leaders, local and state leaders, that our views are the views that should be held. We have to take the country back to those principles that we all believe in.

This is not a political comment. It is not meant to favor any party. We want to protect the individual's rights and those rights include property rights. To do that you have to fight and you have to fight initially in the local level and then the state level, and that is where the battle ultimately is going to be won or lost, because even the Supreme Court is going to eventually reflect the national trend. Hopefully the Kelo case is either the high point or low point of whatever the current trend is and the pendulum will them swing back to where property rights are respected and followed. Because, as I have stated several times from this podium, I firmly believe that the best protectors of property and the environment are those people who own it.

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