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Order in the court

"Order in the court" Continued...

Issue: "Death blow," June 17, 2006

Over the past three months, the trend toward fewer 5-4 splits-or 5-3 splits before Justice Alito was seated-has continued on the Roberts court, with only four of 22 cases so closely decided. (A fifth case, Hartman v. Moore, was decided 5-2 , but was argued before Justices Roberts and Alito joined the court.) The remaining cases yielded seven unanimous decisions, four per curiam rulings, and six in which a half-dozen or more justices formed the majority.

Still, Heritage Foundation legal studies director Todd Gaziano is reluctant to put too much stock in the court's new collegiality. "I don't think collegiality will suddenly make Ginsberg more reasonable on abortion," he said.

Though he conceded that the Roberts court has issued fewer closely divided opinions, Mr. Gaziano notes that some potentially contentious decisions have yet to materialize this term. Among them: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, in which the court will address the president's wartime powers; League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, which will decide the constitutionality of redistricting in Texas; and Neil v. Vermont Republican State Committee, a case that pits campaign-finance laws against freedom of speech and association.

Kelo concludes

By Lynn Vincent

In what may be the beginning of the end of a high-profile eminent domain dispute, the New London, Conn., city council on June 5 voted 5-2 to evict holdout homeowners who are refusing to make way for private, for-profit development.

The standoff initially pitted homeowners in Fort Trumbull, a neighborhood set along the Thames River, against New London officials. The city wanted developers to give Fort Trumbull a makeover, installing a hotel, convention center, and upscale condominiums, but seven homeowners refused to sell their property. When the city invoked eminent domain in an effort to seize their property, the residents sued.

The case, Kelo v. City of New London, went all the way to the Supreme Court, yielding a controversial 5-4 ruling in which the justices upheld the city's right to seize the homes. The decision marked a sharp departure from previous eminent domain law, in which municipalities had seized private property only in order to make room for public improvements such as highway expansion.

After the Kelo ruling, five of the New London plaintiffs settled with the city, one just prior to the June 5 eviction vote. Institute for Justice attorney Scott Bullock, who represents the holdout residents, said plaintiffs Michael Cristofaro and lead plaintiff Susette Kelo are considering appeals to state government to ask that state funding for the Fort Trumbull development be pulled. He said they also may engage in civil disobedience: "This is a civil-rights struggle to save poor and working-class people from eminent domain abuse."

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