• Twitter
  • Facebook
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Watch your stuff

Agreed that "a wise Latina woman . . ." was a stupid thing to say -- even Sonia Sotomayor thinks so by now -- did the senators have to go over and over it? It showed an unfortunate mindset of Sotomayor's to sink into group-identity politics, but getting her to recant it (or as close as a nominee will get to that) did nothing special for me.

I wish more people were paying more attention to her feel for constitutional concepts, which seems suspect to me. On several cases, she either either misstated the implications or displayed a complete misunderstanding of them. The one that bother me most was her flailing on Kelo (easily the worst property decision in my lifetime), a Supreme Court ruling that embraced a naked abuse of power and put the finishing trouches on the destruction of property rights. She said Kelo was about taking property in economically blighted areas -- but "blight" had nothing to do with the case. She also said the ruling merely held that the state "could contract with a private developer to effect the public's purpose" in a taking. But it was about more than that:

It held that the state could actually transfer ownership of the land to a private party and that this was a constitutionally permissible "public use" if done for the purpose of promoting "economic development."

There has been a terrific backlash against the 5-4 Kelo decision from both liberals and conservatives, and property rights are likely to be on the court's agenda numerous times. Will it expand the implications of Kelo even further or retreat a little?

The signs don't look good to me. As an appellate judge, Sotomayor was in the majority in a case (Didden v. Village of Port Chester) that went even further than Kelo by allowing government condemnation of property after the owners refused to pay extortion money to a politically influential private developer.

And Kelo was a typical Supreme Court 4-4 tie with Anthony Kennedy breaking it -- he was in the majority siding with the anti-property rights crowd. The only dissenters from Kelo still on the court are Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas (the other two were William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O;Connor).