Everybody leads with the Supreme Court ruling 5-4 that local governments can force people to sell their property, even if it’s going to be used for private redevelopment and the area isn’t blighted.
The eminent-domain case revolved around the proposed redevelopment of a run-down—but not officially blighted—area of the well-worn town of New London, Conn.
As the New York Timesfocuses on, the case mostly revolved around the Fifth Amendment clause that eminent domain can be invoked only if the property is taken for “public use.” The majority of justices decided that even if the land is privately developed, with its planned “riverwalk” and retail and office space, that’s still “public use.” (The Washington Post wraps up the case in a run-on, but damnuseful, first sentence.)
“Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government,” wrote Justice Stevens for the majority, “Clearly, there is no basis for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purpose.” Stevens, who was joined by the three other liberal-leaning justices along with Justice Kennedy, pointed out that states can still make laws restricting localities’ property-pilfering powers.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, writing the dissent, wasn’t exactly mollified: “The specter of condemnation [now] hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.” Joining O’Connor in the dissent were Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Scalia and Thomas.
For all the end-is-nigh headlines (see top of page), the Wall Street Journal’s news coveragesuggests that few people are going to be forced to sell their homes to, say, Wal-Mart or anybody else. The court’s opinion is “not a license to steal,” said one law prof. “The court makes clear that there are standards and that the public-use requirement is a real requirement.”
An NYT editorial calls the court’s decision a “welcome vindication of cities’ ability to act in the public interest.” The Post strikes a classic centrist pose (considered and conflicted), calling the result of the ruling “quite unjust” but the decision itself “correct.” The WSJ has no doubts, calling the decision a “judicial encroachment on our liberties.”
The NYT off-leads details about how doctors at Guantanamo Bay helped interrogators get acquainted with detainees’ weaknesses. “Their purpose was to help us break them,” said one former interrogator. A Pentagon spokesman said the doctors breached no ethical codes since, ahem, they weren’t acting as doctors but “behavioral scientists.” The story is partly based on a just-released New England Journal of Medicine piece. Meanwhile, though the Times glides by it, there has been a smattering of coverage on doctors at Gitmo feeling the team spirit.
The Times’ Gitmo piece also mentions that U.N. human rights investigators are complaining that after three years of requests the U.S. still hasn’t let them visit detainees at the base.
Finally, in another piece, the NYT notices that Vice President Cheney also chimed in on Gitmo last night. “They’re living in the tropics,” he said. “They’re well fed. They’ve got everything they could possibly want.”
Everybody fronts the minor fireworks in yesterday’s Senate hearings on Iraq. The Journal and NYT focus on the U.S. commander in the Mideast issuing a muted smackdown of Vice President Cheney’s recent assertion that the Iraq insurgency is in “its last throes.” Gen. John Abizaid said, “In terms of the overall strength of the insurgency, I’d say it was the same as it was. There’s a lot of work to be done against the insurgency.”
The Los Angeles Timesand WP focus, less interestingly, on the heat SecDef Rumsfeld took at the hearings. The Post dubs it “some of the toughest questioning of the Pentagon leader since the war in Iraq began.” Sen. Ted Kennedy, less than surprisingly, invoked both the Q-word and the R-word. But Rumsfeld also faced a bit of trouble the other side. “I’m here to tell you, sir, in the most patriotic state that I can imagine, people are beginning to question,” said Republican Lindsey Graham. “I think we have a chronic problem on our hands.” Meanwhile, USA Today picks up an angle nobody else headlines—perhaps because it isn’t really news: “RUMSFELD REJECTS IRAQ TIMETABLE.”
Another four near-simultaneous bombs exploded Thursday morning in Baghdad, killing 17 and hitting two Shiite mosques. A Page One feature in the Post checks in on how residents of Baghdad are coping. “So many problems are happening in the city,” said one grocer. “Where do I start—water, electricity, security, unemployment or health?”
The NYT says Iraq’s anti-corruption office is investigating loads of complaints about the previous interim government. Warrants have been issued for two former ministers. Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi insists the investigation is just politics—though most on the anti-graft force were also there during his term.
The LAT fronts and others teasethe House canceling a committee’s proposed cuts to public broadcasting.
Most of the papers reefer a judge sentencing 80-year-old Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen to 60 years for the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers.