It’s sometimes easy to forget that winning in the Supreme Court — even the U.S. Supreme Court — doesn’t always get you what you want.
This week brought news about the aftermath of the landmark Caperton v. Massey Coal and Kelo decisions that must greatly disappoint the winning parties.
Caperton v. Massey Coal: Massey Coal wins again
Last spring, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Caperton v. Massey Coal, in which the Court held that it was possible for judicial campaign contributions to reach such a level that the judge continuing to sit on a case could violate the federal Due Process Clause.
(My discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion is here. An earlier post about Caperton and last spring’s debate about merit selection of judges in Texas is here.)
The Supreme Court vacated and remanded a 3-2 decision of the West Virginia Supreme Court in favor of Massey Coal, holding that one of the Justices in the majority should have been required to recuse himself.
Now the West Virginia Supreme Court has reached its final decision.
After Caperton’s successful U.S. Supreme Court appeal, the new result is 4-1, still in favor of Massey Coal. (( There were four new Justices sitting, out of the five on the West Virginia Supreme Court. The Court experienced some turnover, and Justice Blankenship recused himself, consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s disposition. ))
More coverage is collected at this post on How Appealing.
Kelo: From residential “blight” paying low taxes to empty blight with no taxes
The New York Times reports today about the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Kelo case holding that the federal Takings Clause did not the City of New London from exercising eminent domain over private property as part of a redevelopment plan to lure jobs promised by Pfizer.
The idea was that the land taken would cure “blight” around the new Pfizer facility and could support housing or other high-end development complementary to those new jobs.
That Supreme Court decision became a symbol for property-rights advocates, lending its name to an anti-Kelo property-rights backlash at the state level (such as one of the constitutional amendments Texas passed earlier this month, which was discussed this week on the Volokh Conspiracy).
Pfizer did indeed build its facility; the city took its case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. Everything seemed to be going the city’s way.
But, before the city’s portion of the land was developed, Pfizer announced that it was closing its local facility because of consolidation in the wake of its merger with Wyeth.
The Wall Street Journal opined that “the aftermath of Kelo is the latest example of the futility of using eminent domain as corporate welfare.”
To me, the obvious lesson is that urban planning to lure businesses is hard, whether or not land is taken to accomplish the goal. That said, future courts and policymakers could think differently about “blight” if they start to lose confidence in their ability to cure it through takings.