An Assessment Eminent Domain and an Analysis of Broad Interpretations vs. Literal Interpretations
For many years the judiciary system has become a medium for the making of policy. Major court cases have dictated the outcome of many issues that have been brought before the court. Eminent domain and the right to privacy are not two subjects easily combined, but will be used in this thesis to discuss the matter of constitutional concepts that exist in a variable state. In observance, how the founding fathers may have interpreted the definition of eminent domain and the right to privacy may or may not necessarily be interpreted the same way by the Courts.
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
-James Madison, The Federalist Papers No. 51
It has been the challenge of all just and fair governments to create a system capable of both governing the masses for the purpose of maintaining order and finding the necessary boundaries needed to keep those entrusted with power from abusing their position and authority. The founding fathers of the Constitution of the United States of America spent one-hundred and sixteen days (Bernstein, 2004) attempting to build a system of checks and balances to ensure the protection of the governed from the government. Furthermore, the system was also built to allow those entrusted with power to have the authority to perform actions their wisdom judges as productive and fruitful to the community at large.
The founding fathers, being both men and mortal, were not capable of seeing the vast, complex organism the society they were creating would someday become. They did not have the foresight to conceive a world capable of weapons of mass destruction, scientific endeavors of unlimited proportions, or all the possible future ethical states the American people could exist in. Nevertheless, the standards the Constitution holds and the values it possesses are capable of being interpreted within the current way of life. One of the Founding Fathers’ concepts that is being evaluated in twenty-first century terms is the constitutional component of eminent domain and the interpretation of it constitutional foundation.
This thesis is an examination of eminent domain as pertaining to the Founding Fathers’ understanding in the terms of current and contemporary perspectives. More specifically, this examination will be on the concept of eminent domain, which is the inherent power of the state to seize private property, and the current conflict of narrow vs. broad interpretations.
This topic was chosen due to the fluctuating nature of the subject and the divide among current leaders in the interpretation on the matter. The examination will include a look at the court case decisions, Supreme Court Justices’ opinions, and an assessment of what the Framers of the United States Constitution had to say about the subject and what was its original intention. The examination will also observe which state eminent domain currently exist in; a trend towards narrow or broad interpretation.
The method that will be used to explore eminent domain will be an objective assessment of current opinions on the matter from Supreme Court justices, experts of the topic, and literature reviews. This thesis is not a subjective opinion on eminent domain, but is a collection of evidence that evaluates the opinions and decisions of modern leaders. However, evidence does show that there is a trend towards a broad interpretation of eminent domain and the suggestion that eminent domain is being use to support large corporations and specific individuals for various financial reasons. The evidence does not invalidate the importance of eminent domain and its position in American society, but supports the argument for reevaluation of the issue for improved clarity and understanding.
Purpose of Paper
The purpose of the paper is to show the present development of the use of eminent domain and its main interpretations in the context of various situations and time periods. Its purpose includes the necessity to clarify terms that surround the eminent domain topic, such as “taking clause” or “public use”. A subsequent section will expand more on the definitions of terms and phrases. The first sections of this paper will study the idea of eminent domain and the reasoning for its existence founded within the Constitution and the words of the Founding Fathers.
An assessment of recent court cases on the subject will also be explored to analyze the current interpretation of the topic of eminent domain. The purpose of midsection of the paper is to explain the law cases that decided the precedence for the use of eminent domain. The court cases main function is to illustrate the various situations were eminent domain was implemented, brought to court, and decided by Supreme Court justices. By doing this, an observation of the justices’ rationale, the diverse time periods, and the change in leadership can show what influenced the validation or invalidation of the use of eminent domain.
The purpose of last sections of this paper is to show eminent domain’s various forms on an international and social level. It will expand on the concept of eminent domain found in other countries and on other levels not explicitly established in general examinations. The purpose is to answer the question of whether or not America is the only country faced with the dilemma of taking private property from private citizens. As well as the assessment of the interaction of eminent domain and religion and whether or not these interactions fall under the guise of separation of church and state.
“Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty.”
-John Adams, Defense of the Constitutions, 1787
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