Can the Government Force You Out of Your House? | Kelo v. New London

Mr. Beat presents Supreme Court Briefs New London, Connecticut
1997 Susette Kelo drives by a run down house along the Thames (Tames) River that has been for sale for awhile. Even though the house is run down, she falls in love with it and buys it. She spends months completely renovating the 107-year old Victorian-style cottage, painting it pink. The house had a great view of the water, and was in a working-class neighborhood called Fort Trumbull. Unfortunately, the neighborhood had been in decline for years, as there were few decent paying jobs nearby. But Susette didn’t care. She loved her little pink house and its view of the harbor. She soon met a dude named Tim LeBlanc, who helped her do exterior work on the house. Eventually the two would get married and live there together. But then, in January 1998, real estate agents began knocking on her door, offering lots of money to buy her house on behalf of “an unnamed buyer.” Kelo was suspicious, and turned down all offers. However, agents began to tell her if she didn’t sell her house, she would be forced out of her home by the city due to something called “eminent domain.” Eminent domain, you say? What the heck is that? Eminent domain is the right for a government to just take private property for public use. In other words, if the government thinks it is in the best interest of all its citizens, it can kick you out of your house. Both the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution say the government can use eminent domain, but it just requires “just compensation.” For more about eminent domain, be sure to check out my friend Dave’s video dedicated to the topic over on his channel City Beautiful. Hey Dave! Dave: Yeah? Mr. Beat: So, it’s a weird coincidence that we both decided to cover this topic at the same time. Am I right? hahaha Dave: No, it’s not. We planned to do it this way. Mr. Beat: We did? Why would we do that? Dave: You know, to cross-promote our channels. Mr. Beat: Why would you want to promote my horrible channel? Anyway, Susette Kelo didn’t care how much money New London was offering her. She loved her little pink house, and wasn’t going anywhere. Neither were 14 other Fort Trumbull residents. They decided to fight. Wait a second, why was New London trying to kick them out? Well Pfizer, a multinational pharmaceutical corporation, was opening a new facility in New London, right next to the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. Part of the deal were plans to “fix up” Fort Trumbull, including building a new hotel, conference center, and fancy housing for the scientists working at Pfizer. This would require major government help. $73 million in help. Yep, the state of Connecticut would pitch in $73 million to kick out the Fort Trumbull residents, demolish their homes, and update the area with new roads and utilities. Once Kelo and the other Fort Trumbull residents who didn’t want to leave their homes found out about this, they sued the city. Meanwhile, an organization called the New London Development Corporation, or NLDC, was already demolishing homes. By the time of the trial, which went to the New London Superior Court in July 2001, the NLDC already had acquired around 80 buildings and destroyed most of them. Pfizer had also already built their facility. The Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning nonprofit law firm, agreed to represent Kelo and the others. Scott Bullock, the lead lawyer for them, later said: “We got involved because what was going on was an outrageous abuse of power. There was so little respect shown for these people. The city wanted to take an entire neighborhood and make it anew.” Bullock argued that eminent domain didn’t apply in this case, since ultimately the purpose was profits for private developers. In other words, New London taking over Fort Trumbull didn’t qualify as something that would benefit the entire community. In March 2002, the New London Superior Court basically said some could stay but others had to go. Both sides were not happy, so both sides appealed. In late 2002, Kelo’s husband, Tim LeBlanc, was in a horrible car accident and went into a coma for two weeks. Now there were two fights for Kelo. While he was still in the hospital, the Connecticut Supreme Court began hearing the appeal. While things were looking up for LeBlanc as he slowly recovered, things were looking down for staying in the little pink house because in March 2004, the Connecticut Supreme Court said New London’s use of eminent domain was ok. Kelo and the others appealed again to the Supreme Court, who agreed to hear the case on September 28, 2004. It was rare for the Court to take on an eminent domain case, by the way. Kelo and LeBlanc, as well as many of the other neighbors, were present at oral arguments in February 2005. By this time, Kelo had become well known to the country, and a sort of symbol of the fight against unjust eminent domain. It seemed like everyone was on her side. However, the Court was not. On June 23rd, they announced they had sided with New London. It was a close one. 5-4. Justice John Paul Stevens argued that eminent domain in this case had a “public purpose” because it meant creating jobs in a city that had high unemployment. “Promoting economic development is a traditional and long-accepted function of government.” The dissent argued that this use of eminent domain was basically Robin Hood in reverse- taking from the poor to give to the rich. In her dissent, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor argued the decision got rid of “any distinction between private and public use of property – and thereby effectively delete(d) the words ‘for public use’ from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.” This was a controversial decision, to say the least. It made people mad on both sides of the political spectrum. In one poll, 99% of respondents disagreed with the decision. On the one-year anniversary of the decision, President George W. Bush issued an executive order that told the federal government to limit its use of eminent domain. Although Kelo and the others kept fighting for awhile, eventually they all settled with New London for reportedly lots of money. Kelo’s house wasn’t demolished after all. In fact, you can visit it today. In 2008, Kelo sold the house for $1 to a dude named Avner Gregory, who moved the house across town. Today it’s a museum. Kelo moved to a different town. Around that time, the economy was crap since it was The Great Recession, and Pfizer had shut down its New London facility. So ironically, by the time New London had finally cleared the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, it no longer had plans to redevelop it. For the past 10 years, the former neighborhood has been abandoned, home to feral cats. So uh…yeah…they were kicked out for nothing. However, Kelo v. New London had a big impact. It led to a huge nationwide backlash against eminent domain. It caused 45 of the 50 states to change their eminent domain laws, and today the fight continues. In 2017, a film called Little Pink House further raised awareness of the case. And I’d argue that Susette Kelo may have lost the battle, but she certainly didn’t lose the war. She remains a hero to many Americans in the fight against unjust eminent domain. I’ll see you for the next Supreme Court case, jury! So what do YOU think? Do you agree with the Court? What do YOU think about eminent domain? Let me know in the comments below. Also, there’s this book that I used for research for this video called Little Pink House, A True Story of Defiance and Courage, by Jeff Benedict. This is the book the movie I was telling you about was based off of. If you want to buy this book, I put a link to it in the description of this video. And don’t forget, this video is a collaboration with my friend Dave and his channel City Beautiful. Check out his video about the impact of eminent domain. And now it’s time for my monthly shout out to my Patreon supporters especially my Patreon supporter Eric B. Wolman. And all these patrons, are at least at the Grover Cleveland level or higher which means they donate at least $15 or more a month. So I’ve got Austin Rudolph, Elcaspar Flabby, JoJo’s Dogtail Matt Standish, Nick Everett Pillerstiller Bahn Ruthington Sean Conant, Andrew Schneider John Johnson, Kenneth President Storm, and Zackary F. Parker one of my newer ones. Thank you so much guys. And thank YOU for watching, yo.


  1. Does the Court make any sense in this case?
    Also, be sure to check out City Beautiful's video about eminent domain:


    Did you spot the cowlick?

  2. I almost always side with the liberal justices like RBG and John Paul Stevens, but I have to say, they got it wrong this time. In my opinion, eminent domain can be justified, but its use should try to be as limited as possible, as taking unwilling homeowners’ land isn’t great, especially when you consider that land is always unique. Unless it’s something really important, I don’t think you should use eminent domain, and giving pfeiser a new location isn’t incredibly important.

  3. Amazon wall Mart can now take your land home to increase tax revenue .Soviet Union ?
    Was NOT a public project …

  4. I've got to side with the dissent on this one. Kicking people out of their houses to make accommodation for a private company's staff does not fit my definition of "public use". Then low and behold the company abandons the project! Not right.

    What is right are city beautiful and Mr beat working together. Very right indeed.

  5. I've been directly involved in eminent domain abuse by the government as a resident of Atlantic City. It's hard to fathom supporters of this kind of government overreach. It violates the sanctity of private property which was key in the development of this Country, usually victimizes the 'little guy' in favor of large corporations, and often fails to deliver on the promises it makes.

  6. Thanks for the collab! I hope these videos are put to public use and we receive our just compensation. 🙂

  7. In other words the US like communism. The Didn't respect ownership. And Distribute ownership from low and middel class prople to the rich upperclass people.

  8. New London country resident here, New London still remains a shit hole with little employment opportunities. While the crime rates are going down and the worse neighborhoods are becoming better, the fort trumble and east new London neighborhoods remain some of the worst in CT.

  9. I know this is a fucked up world and that this is the tamest thing in comparison but this was very sad. Caring so much about renovating a property then having late capitalism ilegally take it away only to turn around and let it rot doing nothing with it.

  10. It's great a myth that government is none profit, or public any more than walmart is. The difference is that it's a evil corporation with nearly unlimited power.

  11. I got so excited when I saw a new Supreme Court Briefs! Woop woop!!!!! The state of Connecticut should be embarrassed! I mean, they should already be embarrassed for a multitude of other reasons but this just adds to it!

  12. This is a fascinating case. It's interesting how the more liberal judges backed a plan to use the clause to benefit a private corporation. Generally progressive or left leaning politicians tout their belief in the right of the individual over the corporation. Thank you for the video!

  13. Eminent Domain is necessary for some things. Certain industries have limits on where they can be or how they function, industries which can be quite useful to the residents and economy of a town, state or region. Railroads and port facilities come to mind.

    The Kelo-Pfizer fight was not an example of this, however. Pfizer could have set up in a thousand different places and had no reason to disrupt a community which didn't want to be disrupted. Okay, sure, maybe that New London community was run down and could have used some help. Tearing it apart for the benefit of Pfizer was not it. That Pfizer abandoned the town proves this.
    Corporations have undue influence/control over governments, particularly smaller governments such as towns, cities and counties. This is why libertarian types want to destroy federal government, so the Corps can more easily manipulate states and small municipalities.

  14. Eminent domain should be very limited with huge studies to show how the public would benefit. The Supreme court has made a lot of missteps during its hisory. Glad cities and states did something to correct this one.

  15. Eminent domain not looking good, President Trump was touting how people make a fortune from selling their property just recently but there is always some serious hardball being played whenever eminent domain goes down. One summer while I was in college I worked reassessing property values for the city auditor department and was in a neighborhood being re-developed. I walked up to knock on this citizen's door with my schematic of their house to confirm the square footage and check on improvements and such. FYI check your city ordinances before you put up a gazebo or lay a concrete slab under your backyard shed, at least in my city you will get got on your taxes for seemingly inconsequential improvements like those two, bricks or garden pave stones might not be considered permanent and keep your taxes from going up; everywhere is different though so check for yourself there's always a stupid gouge somewhere. As I even approached their door and before I could knock I was preemptively greeted with the unmistakable sound of a shell being chambered into a pump shotgun and was told that I "better get off (their) my property right now." There has got to be some aggravating harassment and shady tricks going on to push someone to answer the door like that. Needless to say I turned my fuzzy butt right around and filled out my paperwork in the car, amazingly his schematic was exactly correct and nothing had been built in the back yard, lolz.

  16. Check out Overton Park v. Volpe. This stopped the construction of interstate 40 through Memphis and Memphis became know as the one Place I-40 stopped. All this after homes were destroyed.

  17. I’m wondering if the “Takings Clause” of the Fifth Amendment actually was intended to protect property other than houses as most modern eminent domain cases often are about. When the Amendment was written, many Americans were still owed money due to them from the Continental Congress during the revolutionary war for property and possessions taken from them that were used by the Army. Horses, food, weapons etc. were the majority of confiscated property. It seems that this is more of what the clause relates to and it has somehow been twisted over the centuries to mean “the government can take your house”.

  18. So New London went from having a neighborhood that provided value to itself to having vacant land which provides no value whatsoever. Lol. When will cities and governments learn that selling yourself to huge corporations for the promise of jobs is a losing proposition. Foxconn in Wisconsin, anyone? Amazon 2nd HQ?

  19. Mr Beat please please please watch an Australian movie called The Castle. Darryl Kerrigan fights for his home on the principle that a man's home is his castle. The fictional family is exactly like my parents and siblings and how we grew up.

  20. So many movies have been made about a rickety tiny house fighting against development, banks, the city, and such, all with similar story plots and all showing the house standing among mismatched surroundings from them not being able to demolish it.
    It should be a trope at this point.

  21. With the exception of Citizen United v FEC, was the worst decision the Supreme Court had made in the last 30 years perhaps more.

  22. Wow. I’m surprised at which justices voted in favor of this blatantly pro private profit money grab. I won’t look at RBG the same.

  23. What is a history teacher's favorite vegetable? …A beat…😂😂😂. Awesome video Mr. Beat. If I was a Justice I would side with Reihnquist, Scalia, Thomas, and O'Connor.

  24. In my home town of Hayward CA there was a long running eminent domain battle that ended when the owner of the house got elected to the city council. The developer quickly settled when they discovered themselves negotiating with the person they were trying to force out rather than a random politician.

    It was a strange thing to watch as it played out over years. One lonely house in the middle of several square blocks utterly flattened. Now it's the only bit of old architecture downtown surrounded by condos. 22756 Atherton St. on Google maps if you want to see the results of all the effort it takes (and what little results) when you try and preserve a prewar neighborhood against a city that's been wined and dinned by a restate developer.

  25. I would definitely recommend checking out the Institute for Justice’s YouTube channel. Lots of cases just like this one.

  26. I was already a subscriber of both City Beautiful and Mr. Beat. Wonderful to see you two working together!

  27. My first video from this channel, due to city beautiful, and it was pretty good imo.

    I feel that the instances of eminent domain, would be more effective for such things as building military bases, airfields, and seaports, (with those two being apart of the military aspect), due to such issues as war, and the need for conscription. Useful for World Wars for example.

    While not necessarily limited to such a thing, what should be taken for the benefit of the city as a whole (and not just a small percentage of it), should be limited. In any instances of the government taking property, it should either build up a new facility for replacement, or, pay off the full price of the structure and land, at the current value, along with any moving costs to allow the people losing their location to be satisfied, and of course to pay for any inconveniences.

    So, the fact that the government, and the various court levels sided with a wealthy business over the less wealthy populous, is completely wrong and immoral.

    If someone were to try to build a hospital, should that town not have one, then I could see that as being okay, but, even so, must be taken under great consideration. The government should not be allowed to randomly grab anything for a for profit organization of any kind, or for anything that would be very limited in benefits.

  28. I understand to a point for it if there's a bunch of derelict buildings and homes but not when people live there that are trying to revitalize it.

  29. THIS is an example of Eminent Domain used in a terrible way. I count myself among the 99% from that time. I remember the arguments that ensued after the SCOTUS ruling. To this day I have yet to meet even ONE person who thought the Kelo Case was decided correctly. NOT. ONE. PERSON.

  30. I thought it was ironic that after the case, a consortium, in protest of the decision, decided to ask a New Hampshire county to seize the home of justice David Souter for development of a strip mall.

  31. Wouldn’t much of the problem go away if homeowners were paid at least fair market value, perhaps a little more? For example, if New London had offered Ms. Kelo say 10% over market value? Or even 100% over fair market; how can anyone be unhappy with that? Given the scale of the redevelopment project it would seem the city could have paid each of the remaining residents a million bucks each and they would have saved time and money… but they were greedy, wanted to get her house for below fair value, and wanted to prove that government is allowed to bully its citizens when the all-mighty dollar is involved.

  32. *LOVE* that you cross promo'd with City Beautiful; especially ***LOVE*** that you did it in a Supreme Court Brief so as to promote this beatiful series of yours!

  33. What the frell!? How the frell!?

    WHY THE FUCK did RBG vote in favor of this use of eminent domain!?

    Ginsburg, I am very disappoint!

  34. I live like right there, very little Pfizer employees actually live in New London. Most would never live in New London and chose surrounding communities like East Lyme, Waterford or Groton.

  35. Interesting that all Republican-leaning justices supported the residents, and all the left-leaning ones supported big government/big pharma. It's rather obvious which side actually cares for the American people and their rights.

  36. I live on Ocean Ave in New London… Sadly the city is still a shithole, phizer didn't save it, go figure. Can't wait to move in 60 days, wish they'd pay me to go

  37. Let’s add the Supreme Court to the list of government institutions that should be abolished. The American experiment has failed.

  38. I wish Canada didn't have such zealous eminent domain. What's the point of buying land in Canada when you're still a tenant to the government who can evict when they please. Canada also don't have free speech so I mean there's more important liberties we need right now.

  39. Emminent Domain Law has bee a boondoggle waiting to happen for at least a century- as soon as the cost of never ending outward expansion was higher than "redevelopement". The situation deteriorated still further with the advent of sports arenas built and financed with municipal bonds became the new city "status symbol". The fact that most of these projects were ultimately transferred to the "majority tenant" after a decade or so is little discussed; as to whom the profits go, examine the 1995 sale of the Texas Rangers for $500 million dollars; at the time the Rangers were a middle of the league team- the teams own value likely less than half the stated sum- but hey owned the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas a 60k seat baseball stadium as sole owners. FWIW, at the Ballpark and at the nearby new, also bond built and ED using Cowboy's Stadium, many residences in very good repair, about 900 in total were "Eminent Domained" out of their 300-450k homes and the best school district in Arlington,Texas.
    This has been one of the most disturbing points of erosion of the rights and prerogatives our Constitution enumerates, and one that needs loud and furious seeing too!

  40. This is New London bowing down to Pfizer for what was suppose to be a win for the city. However, after the 10 year tax break Pfizer splits and sells to Electric Boat (DOD) and they also get a tax break. I have a feeling this was all planed out years in advance with GOV Roland. New London is a mess…just hanging on with antique and junk shops and a misfit of arts and culture. Its better that its kept down and quiet. I prefer it that way…

  41. I think "just compensation" should be defined by Congress with a new law as 10x the highest market value held for the property. This would make the government really think before taking land.

  42. As progressive as I am, I'm actually pretty upset that Ruth Bader Ginsberg made this decision and Scalia went the against New London. Pretty ironic considering how liberals and conservatives in my home state of Wisconsin feel about the eminent domain problem with Foxconn.

  43. As progressive as I am, I'm actually pretty upset that Ruth Bader Ginsberg made this decision and Scalia went the against New London. Pretty ironic considering how liberals and conservatives in my home state of Wisconsin feel about the current eminent domain problem with Foxconn.

  44. I had no idea the end result of Melo was Pfizer leaving the project that started the whole thing. Good content. Subbed.

  45. The sad part about this is that they Pfizer, the unnamed property buyer, up and left after they no longer got tax brakes from the city if New London, and now the area is worse off then it was before all of this.

  46. How does the compensation for eminent domain work in America?

    In Brazil, it takes unfathomably long for you to receive your compensation if you don't accept the government's upfront offer (usually 1/3 of what your state is really worth it). Fifteen years without your property nor your money is not considered an "unreasonable" waiting time.

  47. Eminent domain should only be rare and to use for something like roads and tracks. But rare as fuck. I remember my city bought property to bring in condoa and commerical. Thats bs. Anyone notice the justices that were for New London.

  48. Eminent domain has its purposes, but in this case I feel even if Pfizer was still open today, that the city should have lost the case. As there really was no public purpose for even if the unemployment rate was going to go down from the plant being built, it was most likely not going to help current nearby residents anyway as all the scientists would be coming from elsewhere.

    Though eminent domain should really only ever be used on unbuilt land (like say on the edge of a large property) for a public good (like say a much needed road).

  49. the USSC caught a ton of SH1T over this BS decision.
    I hope the clowns on the court learned their lesson.
    but I doubt it.

  50. in Croydon England there is a skyscraper in the middle of a roundabout. the owner of the original house turned office, a lawyer argued that the town did not need the property, they could build round it.

  51. Connecticuter here, but “Come in and don’t make progress” is actually our state motto so I wasn’t surprised by the results

  52. Most of these problems can be resolved if they pay enough money (to the owners and rework the development around those refuse to move). The developers are just cheap skates.

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