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Activist Tries a Grab for Jurist's Property

A foe of the high court's eminent domain ruling wants to apply it to seize David H. Souter's home.

June 30, 2005|Benjamin Weyl | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — An activist angered by a Supreme Court property-rights decision proposed this week that the town of Weare, N.H., give Justice David H. Souter a taste of his own legal medicine.

Souter, who owns a home in the south-central New Hampshire town, voted with the majority last week in the case of Kilo vs. City of New London. The court found that the Connecticut city could use the power of eminent domain to seize private property to make way for an urban redevelopment project that would provide broad economic benefits to the community.

The proposal to seize Souter's modest home, though it may be far-fetched, has gained support from conservatives across the country. It showed up in a letter faxed to a Weare town official Monday.

In the letter, Logan Darrow Clements, a Los Angeles resident who is described on his company's website as chief executive of Freestar Media, proposed building a hotel on Souter's property.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday July 02, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
Property rights -- An article in Thursday's Section A about an activist's campaign to have Justice David H. Souter's home seized in response to a Supreme Court ruling limiting property rights referred to the case as Kilo vs. City of New London. The case is Kelo vs. City of New London.

"The justification for such an eminent domain action is that our hotel will better serve the public interest as it will bring in economic development and higher tax revenue to Weare," Clements wrote.

In an interview, Clements said he was inspired to take action by the book "Atlas Shrugged" and by its author, Ayn Rand, an apostle of capitalism and what she called "rational self interest."

A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court, Kathy Arberg, declined to comment Wednesday.

Those familiar with Souter's home site said it was an unlikely spot for a hotel.

Clements said in a press statement that his proposal "is not a prank" and that he planned to raise investment capital from "liberty advocates" around the country to build a "Lost Liberty Hotel," with a dining room called "Just Desserts Cafe."

Each hotel room would offer guests a bedside copy of Rand's "Atlas Shrugged."

The proposal pleased 100 or so conservatives at the regular Wednesday morning strategy meeting hosted in Washington by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative organization.

"Let's go rock and roll," Norquist said after hearing of Clements' idea.

The plan "highlights just how awful this decision was, and how divorced it was from any sense of justice and rights," Norquist said.

He said that the New London case showed the importance of a president's Supreme Court nominations, and predicted that it would ignite a backlash.

"This decision will be remembered 20 years from now by the right as a decision as important as Roe vs. Wade," the 1973 decision guaranteeing a woman's right to an abortion.

The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm in Washington, said Wednesday it would devote $3 million to its "Hands Off My Home" campaign in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.

Clements faxed his letter to Charles Meany, code enforcement officer for Weare, a community of 6,865.

"I am taking it seriously," Meany said of Clements' letter. He said it had generated e-mail from across the country supporting the hotel initiative. "I have to afford him all the due process under the law."

But, making clear the difficult path Clements faced, he said: "In New Hampshire, we really kind of consider our land a sacred thing and no one can really fiddle with it."

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