Really, the headline says it all. But I am disappointed I didn’t see this one coming. Anyone who has read Jeff Benedict’s Little Pink House should have seen its made-for-TV-movie potential.
What actually got me thinking about Kelo, however, is the reporting this week in various media outlets that Justice Richard Palmer, one of the four Connecticut justices who found New London’s exercise of eminent domain to be constitutional, apologized to Suzette Kelo after hearing a keynote speech by Benedict. According to Benedict, Palmer approached Kelo and said, “Had I known all of what [Benedict] just told us I would have voted differently. I’m sorry.”
This certainly seems like grist for the Kelo mill, especially since it’s not every day that a judge apologizes to a litigant for having voted against her. Except that the back story matters a lot here, because that’s not what Justice Palmer says he did. Rather, as the Justice eventually clarified to Benedict, “Those comments were predicated on certain facts that we did not know (and could not have known) at the time of our decision and of which I was not fully aware until your talk — namely, that the city’s development plan had never materialized and, as a result, years later, the land at issue remains barren and wholly undeveloped.” The Justice further added the Court could not have known those facts “because they were not yet in existence.” Moreover, the Justice later responded to a series of written questions from Benedict, one of which was, “Looking back at the Kelo decision (by the Connecticut Supreme Court), how do you see it now? In other words, has it led to good law?” The Justice responded, “I think that our court ultimately made the right decision insofar as it followed governing U.S. Supreme Court precedent.” (The fullest account I’ve found of Justice Palmer’s encounter with Kelo and Benedict is here.)
So, not exactly an apology, but perhaps instead a very human expression of regret over what Suzette Kelo went through.
By the way, readers will note that I chose not to refresh anyone’s recollection about the substance of Suzette Kelo’s case or the eventual ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, you can all just catch the movie.
Hat Tip to my former student Eric Abes.