Fighting Back Against Predatory Eminent Domain Abuse

Date: June 30, 2017

Earlier this year, the NFIB Small Business Legal Center filed a friend of the court brief urging the Louisiana Supreme Court to take up an important eminent domain case. In St. Bernard Port v. Violet Dock, a governmental entity seeks to acquire private docking facilities owned by an independent business—not to ameliorate some social problem (i.e., blight), but simply to take control. The record demonstrates that the Port Authority seeks to take ownership and let a competitor operate Violet Dock’s facilities.

The good news is that since filing our brief in support of further review, the Louisiana Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in this case. Accordingly, we hope the court will reverse a troubling lower court decision that would permit government to take property through eminent domain and transfer it from one business to the next. As we argue, “there is nothing public-minded about destroying a private-sector business for the benefit of a public enterprise (or another competing business).”

And as we’ve argued elsewhere, “[t]o the extent the State acts to advance its own pecuniary interests to the detriment of its citizens, it may exceed its natural charter to govern in the public interest.” For that matter, there could be no clearer example of predatory government conduct than a case, like this, where the authorities seek to take private property to advance a public corporation’s profit interest. As we argue in our amicus brief filed today, “[w]here the government has invoked regulatory or eminent domain powers to confer favors upon its own commercial enterprise, to the detriment of private business, it violates the fundamental trust of the people.” Or as John Locke put it in his Second Treatise on Government in 1690: “[t]he great and chief end, therefore, of Men in uniting into Commonwealths, and putting themselves under Government, is the Preservation of their Property. … [Thus] whenever the Legislators… endeavor to take away, and destroy the Property of the People… they put themselves into a state of War with the People . . . .”

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