Examining the Current Abuse of the Doctrine of Eminent Domain

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Williams, Amanda
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Lethbridge Undergraduate Research Journal
The current application of the doctrine of eminent domain is representative of a steady degradation of individual property rights. Although the 5th Amendment, which protects the eminent domain clause, states that property can only be appropriated for a "public use," the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that eminent domain can be applied if the disputed land will be used for some "public purpose". The linguistic distinction between public "purpose" and public "use" is crucial in the interpretation of the doctrine of eminent domain because the term "purpose" is much vaguer than "use" and consequently leads to a greater abuse of the doctrine. Through examining the original intent of legislative authors and reflecting on three landmark Supreme Court eminent domain cases, this paper will seek to demonstrate how and why an abuse of power is taking place today. This paper will also examine the differences and implications of the terms "use" and "purpose" and will argue for an amendment to the Constitution that would clarify the 5th Amendment's eminent domain clause so that the abuse of this doctrine will stop immediately.
Eminent domain -- United States , Right of property -- United States