Last edited September 2014
Minnesota Issues Resource Guides
This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to Minnesota legislators. It is designed to provide an introduction to the topic, directing the user to a variety of sources, and is not intended to be exhaustive.
Eminent domain is the power of government to take private property for public use. The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says that private property may not be taken for public use without just compensation. Similar provisions exist in the Minnesota Constitution (Article l, Section 13 and Article 13, Section 4).
Traditionally eminent domain has been used to acquire land for such public uses as roads, public buildings, and parks. In recent years, the trend has been to use eminent domain for economic development purposes or as a tool for redeveloping blighted areas. In some instances, rather than acquiring land for a specific public works project, local governments have been taking land from one private owner and giving it to another private owner, reasoning that the new development will be economically beneficial to the residents of the community, even if it is a private development. The issue of whether such public benefits can be considered a public use under the federal Takings Clause was at the center of the Kelo v. City of New London U.S. Supreme Court decision in June 2005. The court ruled that the city of New London's economic development plan qualified as a public use within the meaning of the Takings Clause.
Concern over this ruling - and especially the interpretation of the phrase "public use" - led to calls for clarification of Minnesota's existing laws. The 2006 Minnesota Legislature responded by passing Laws of Minnesota 2006, chapter 214. The law states that "eminent domain may only be used for a public use or public purpose", and further clarifies that the "public benefits of economic development, including an increase in tax base, tax revenues, employment, or general economic health, do not by themselves constitute a public use or public purpose". Other issues addressed are condemnation for blight mitigation or contamination remediation, local government public hearing requirements, and compensation procedures.
- Laws of Minnesota 2006, chapter 214, amended Minnesota's existing eminent domain laws and clarified that "eminent domain may only be used for a public use or public purpose".
- Many of Minnesota's eminent domain laws are located in Chapter 117 of the Minnesota Statutes.
Significant Books and Reports
Berliner, Dana. Public Power, Private Gain: A Five-Year, State-By-State Report Examining the Abuse of Eminent Domain. Washington, D.C.: Castle Coalition, 2003. (KF5599.B47 2003)
Dyson, Deborah. Eminent Domain: Just Compensation. St. Paul: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, 2006. (HN79.M6 S56 2006)
Dyson, Deborah. Eminent Domain: Public Use. St. Paul: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, 2006. (HN79.M6 S56 2006)
Dyson, Deborah. Eminent Domain: Regulatory Takings. St. Paul: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, 2006. (HN79.M6 S56 2006)
Eminent Domain: Information About its Uses and Effect on Property Owners and Communities is Limited. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2006.
Reinhart, Christopher. New London Eminent Domain Case. Hartford, CT: Connecticut General Assembly, Office of Legislative Research, 2004. (Summary of the 2004 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. Includes a timeline of events.)
Significant Articles - Minnesota
(articles in reverse chronological order)
Reeder, Don. "Price of Eminent Domain Reform". Minnesota Cities, September/October 2010, p. 31.
Davies, Phil. "Condemned Prosperity: The Use of Eminent Domain for Private Development May Benefit District Communities, but it Blights the Overall Economy." Fedgazette, March 2006, p. 14-17.
Willete, Eric. LMC Survey Finds Cities Use Eminent Domain Judiciously". Cities Bulletin, November 30, 2005, p. 1, 5.
Scott, Thomas M. "Eminent Domain in Minnesota". Minnesota Cities, October 2005, p. 8-9.
Dranias, Nick. "Eminent Domain Abuse in Minnesota: Departing From Minnesota's 'Fundamental Law', Courts Have Stretched the Concept of 'Public Use' to the Point That it Effectively Requires Great Deference to Legislative Action That Directly and Primarily Promotes Private Interests". Bench & Bar of Minnesota, August 2005, p. 19-23.
Post, Jeffrey W. and Melissa A. Baer. "Limits of Urban Redevelopment? Kelo, Walser, and Condemnation in Minnesota". Bench & Bar of Minnesota, August 2005, p. 14-17.
Significant Articles - United States
(articles in reverse chronological order)
Allen, Charlotte. "Kelo Revisited: Properties Were Seized and a Neighborhood Razed in the Name of Economic Development That Never Came". The Weekly Standard. February 10, 2014, p. 22-28.
Tamulevich, Susan. "New London Readies For Its Close-Up: More Than a Decade After the Kelo v. New London Eminent Domain Controversy Began, the Connecticut Town is Ready to Shine". Planning, April 2013, p. 21-25.
Carpenter, Dick M. and John K. Ross. "Do Restrictions on Eminent Domain Harm Economic Development?". Economic Development Quarterly, November 2010, p. 337-351.
McGeehan, Patrick. "Pfizer to Leave City That Won Land-Use Case". New York Times, November 12, 2009.
Saginor, Jesse and John F. McDonald. "Eminent Domain: A Review of the Issues". Journal of Real Estate Literature, 2009, v.17 no. 1, p. 3-43.
Snyder, David B. "Eminent Domain After Kelo: Is Condemnation of Property for Economic Purposes Legal?". TR News, September/October 2008, p. 16-21.
Rolnick, Art and Phil Davies. "The Cost of Kelo: Contrary to Last Year's U.S. Supreme Court Rulings, Using Eminent Domain to Foster Economic Development Diminishes the Public Good". The Region, June 2006, p. 12-17.
Bell, Bernard W. "Legislatively revising Kelo v. City of New London: Eminent Domain, Federalism, and Congressional Powers". Journal of Legislation, Vol. 32, No. 2, 2006, p. 165-219.
"Re-examining Eminent Domain: The Conflict Between Private Property and Economic Development". Congressional Digest, January 2006, p. 1-32.
Burkard, Kristi, M. "No More Government Theft of Property! A Call to Return to a Heightened Standard of Review After the United States Supreme Court Decision in Kelo v. City of New London". Hamline Journal of Public Law & Policy, Fall 2005, p. 115-162.
Staley, Samuel R. "Two Decades of Eminent Domain". Privatization Watch, 2005, no. 5, p. 9, 15.
Plattner, Robert D. "'New London' and its Aftermath: A Lesson for State Tax Policy makers". State Tax Notes, August 29, 2005, p. 679-682.
Significant Internet Resources
Castle Coalition -- This Institute for Justice grassroots property rights activism project provides information on current local, state, and federal bills, state constitutional provisions, and recent news.
National Conference of State Legislatures: Eminent Domain -- Includes information on current state legislative activity.
Additional Library Resources
For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File:
E40 (Eminent domain); P167 (Property Rights & Takings)
For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use these Library catalog searches: