“Public Use” Means Public Use

“Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”  U.S. Constitution, Amendment V

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes coined many pithy aphorisms, including the frequently-cited cliché that “hard cases make bad law.”  Sometimes this may be true, but in reality “bad law” has many sources, often sloppy or unprincipled reasoning by the judge(s) in question.  It is particularly infuriating when easycases make bad law, highlighting the potential for error (or, worse, dishonesty) in judicial decision-making.  When that happens, legal scholars are supposed to weigh in and point out where the errant judges have strayed from the doctrinal (and/or historical) path.  George Mason University law school professor Ilya Somin does just that in his fine book The Grasping Hand (2015), a thorough exploration of Kelo v. City of New London (2005) and the power of eminent domain generally.

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