My grandfather, a circuit and appellate judge in Tennessee, always said that the role of any court was to provide justice in the case at hand. In the Connecticut takings case ["Justices Affirm Property Seizures; 5-4 Ruling Backs Forced Sales for Private Development," front page, June 24], the Supreme Court has not only eliminated the right of the small stakeholder to weather the tyranny of the majority, but it has also placed owners of small property at the mercy of any pairing of developer and zoning commissioner. Property is no longer a right, merely a license.
It is ironic that as the courts took away property rights, Congress is proposing a constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning [news story, June 23]. So, when my house is taken for someone's mansion, I won't even be able to protest appropriately.
In his June 26 op-ed, "Activism, Ripe for the Takings," Michael Kinsley argued that the takings clause is "the conservatives' recipe for judicial activism -- imposing their agenda through the courts rather than bothering with democracy."
The record should show, however, that the activists in this case were members of the liberal wing of the Supreme Court; it was the liberals (along with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy) who decided that private development projects -- including the construction of a pharmaceutical plant by Pfizer -- could be added to the increasing list of "legitimate" public uses. And it was conservatives and libertarians who opposed this violation of the individual's right to private property.
The dissent by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said that the beneficiaries of this decision "are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process" and that "the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more."
If the conservative judicial activism that Mr. Kinsley decried is activism on the behalf of homeowners who want to keep their property from being seized by corporate giants, let us have more of it. This kind of "activism" was at the core of the American rebellion against the British in 1776.
One key purpose of government has been the protection of private property, but the Supreme Court's decision to allow government seizure of private property on the basis of increased tax revenue is an attack on that principle.
Taking blighted areas for redevelopment is one thing. Taking a person's home in a nice neighborhood because the government can generate more tax revenue is another. Developers must be celebrating.
I have my eye on a building in Washington that is ripe for redevelopment. It generates no revenue, and a high-rise put in its place could generate a lot of tax money. Do you think the people in black robes would mind moving out?
George F. Will's complaint about the Supreme Court's "takings" decision ["Damaging 'Deference,' " op-ed, June 24] made it clear that he measures the correctness of Supreme Court decisions by whether they conform to his political views.
A couple of weeks ago, in response to the high court's decision in the medical marijuana case (Gonzalez v. Raich), Mr. Will complained ["Judging This Court," op-ed, June 8] that the court was wrong for not deferring to the California legislature's decision to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Activism, he called it.
Now, in response to the court's decision in the New London, Conn., case, he carps that the justices should have ignored the city's legislative judgment. No deference needed. Activism, again, he says.
Maybe Mr. Will can explain when deference is appropriate and when it's not, because I can't tell from his columns.
Unlike other U.S. government Web sites, the Supreme Court's does not allow citizens to send e-mail unless it concerns technical questions about the site itself. This one-way-only conveyance of information is like the court's recent decision on private property -- misguided and arrogant. It appears that the justices either don't want to hear from citizens or feel that the court is above receiving such commentary.
As to its takings decision, the Supreme Court supported a view that personal property can be taken away to satisfy local governments' need for higher revenue. This is antithetical to the founding values of the United States.
FREDERICK S. ZBAR