by Timothy Sandefur
The Missouri Supreme Court yesterday issued a short opinion allowing the third class city of Arnold, Missouri to use eminent domain to condemn land owned by PLF client Homer Tourkakis and transfer it to a private developer to construct a multimillion dollar shopping center. As you can see by comparing the opinion with the brief that PLF filed on Dr. Tourkakis' behalf, the Court paid little attention to our lengthy analysis of the TIF Act, the state law which the city claimed gave it the power to condemn the property. In that brief, we explained that there was no indication that the Act gave third class cities this power, and in fact the Act lacked any mechanism for condemnation. The Court responded to this with a single sentence: "The City is authorized under several statutes, including the TIF Act, to exercise eminent domain."
The decision is very unfortunate, in that the Court has expanded the eminent domain power to allow all Missouri cities, no matter how small, to condemn private property for transfer to politically influential developers. Every citizen of Missouri is now at risk for having his or her home, business, farm, church, or other property taken away and made into a shopping center, or a theater, or a hotel, or whatever else officials think worthwhile.
I am in Kansas today, and will have more to say about the case when I return to PLF's Sacramento headquarters tomorrow.