Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 14, 2011

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Holds Briefing Friday on Eminent Domain Abuse

Apparently, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held a briefing this past Friday to examine the civil rights implications of eminent domain abuse.  According to news accounts, “The briefing will include scholars and civil rights advocates who will discuss the history of eminent domain abuse, its impact on poor and minority communities, and efforts by federal or state legislatures to curb abuses.  Some civil rights advocates argue that urban renewal condemnations permitted by the Supreme Court’s decision in Berman v. Parker have historically been used to target racial and ethnic minorities, using the term “blight” as a facially neutral word that masked discriminatory motives behind takings.  Many states have enacted laws attempting to limit the scope of eminent domain power further sanctioned by the Court’s subsequent decision in Kelo v. City of New London, a decision that upheld its use for private economic redevelopment, but some legislative attempts to reform abusive practices have been criticized as ineffective.” One of the issues that may have precipitated this briefing is the recent lawsuit brought by the Justice Department  against the city of Joliet, Illinois, accusing public officials of trying to reduce its number of black residents by using eminent domain to seize a federally subsidized housing development.

Those invited to brief the Commission were: David T. Beito, Chair of the Alabama State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; J. Peter Byrne, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center; Hilary O. Shelton, Senior Vice-President for Advocacy, NAACP; and Ilya Somin, Associate Professor Law, George Mason Law School.

Also according to the news account, the public will have 30 days after the briefing to send comments to the Commission.  It is seemingly peculiar that this briefing, especially if public comment is invited, has not been widely publicized.  C-Span’s coverage of the briefing can be viewed here: 

As of this morning, there is still no mention of this briefing nor are there instructions for submitting public comments on the Commission’s website.

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