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The Grasping Hand"Kelo v. City of New London" and the Limits of Eminent Domain$
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Ilya Somin

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226256603

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226256740.001.0001

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From Public Use to Public Purpose

From Public Use to Public Purpose

(p.35) Chapter Two From Public Use to Public Purpose
The Grasping Hand

Ilya Somin

University of Chicago Press

This chapter summarizes the two hundred year long debate over the meaning of “public use.” During the Founding era and throughout the nineteenth century, most courts and jurists endorsed a relatively narrow definition of public use, under which governments could use eminent domain if the condemned property were to be owned by the state or by a private party with a legal duty to serve the public as a whole, such as a public utility. But, beginning in the early twentieth century, state and federal courts began to move towards a broad definition of public use, which allowed any taking that might create some possible public benefit. The history of public use strongly supports the narrow view as the correct approach from the standpoint of originalist theories of constitutional interpretation.

Keywords:   public use, public purpose, eminent domain, constitution

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