Sandefur’s full time job is as a litigator for the Pacific Legal Foundation, specializing in eminent domain and economic rights cases. One of the cases he is involved with now is one that I brought to his attention with a post here last year. It’s in Minnesota, where the state, bravely defending consumers against low prices, fined a company $140,000 for selling gas too cheaply at its 4 stations in the Minneapolis area. He writes at Positive Liberty about the brief he just filed with the court of appeals on behalf of Midwest Oil.
There is another potential case that I brought to his attention last week involving one of my best friends and eminent domain. My buddy Jeff was a member of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity at MSU when we were in college. The city of East Lansing has now targeted the stretch of road that their fraternity house is on for seizure so they can pursue a big development project with lots of new retail outlets. The city council has already taken the first steps to declaring the entire area blighted, which is laughable to anyone who knows the area.
The segment of town they have in mind, the south side of Grand River Avenue from Bogue St to Hagadorn Rd is certainly not blighted. It includes many thriving businesses, student apartement buildings and fraternity houses. The Delta Sigma Phi house, in particular, is something of a local landmark, a unique stone building that is nearly 80 years old. There is nothing the least bit blighted about it.
Unfortunately, under current Michigan law, part of the definition of blight is “economic underutilization”, which means that if the city thinks they can make more tax revenue by taking it from you and giving it to someone else, they can do it. That could all change next week if Michigan voters pass Proposition 4, which would amend the state constitution to make it much tougher for cities to engage in this sort of property seizure. The Michigan Supreme Court already narrowed the means of such seizures a couple years ago in a case that Sandefur also filed briefs in, but this would make those changes part of the state constitution so they could not be overturned.
For a thorough analysis of Proposition 4, go here. I strongly urge my Michigan readers to vote yes on Prop 4. And I urge my readers in other states to push for similar legislation. We must put a stop to this unjust erosion of property rights.