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Cornell Law Review

Keywords

Takings Clause, Just compensation

Abstract

Longstanding calls for the Supreme Court to revisit the Takings Clause's just compensation requirement are especially relevant in light of urban renewal's destructive history. However, the just compensation requirement should be viewed as a floor, not as a ceiling. Even in the absence of formal action by courts, legislatures and local governments can act to fulfill the government's constitutional obligation of "full and perfect" compensation.

By taking preemptive action to support community-based initiatives, financially as well as politically, the same legislatures that seized and destroyed urban neighborhoods can begin to set things right. Court-ordered investments in the longterm well-being of urban communities can further recognize and remedy the dignitary harms inflicted by eminent domain. These state-backed actions are crucial steps towards ensuring the equal dignity to which all are entitled.

Undoubtedly, policies may "follow our compassion." But equally, some policies may be constitutionally required. Just compensation is one such obligation. Far from frivolous, just compensation is integral to our constitutional order. Courts, legislatures, and other government actors need to follow where the Constitution has already led, and begin to reconsider the meaning of the just compensation requirement. Thinking of justice as more than just money is a good start.

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