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July 24, 2005
Souter's Neighbors Not Entirely Unsympathetic To New Hotel

Not long ago, after Supreme Court Justice David Souter supported the seizure of private property in the Kelo decision, a collection of activists decided to take Souter at his word and exercise eminent domain on his house in Weare, New Hampshire in order to build a hotel. Freestar Media wanted to bring the foolishness of Kelo to Souter's doorstep -- literally. And despite Souter's popularity among his fellow New Hampshire citizens, they have surprisingly looked at Freestar's efforts with understanding, if not outright support:

People from across the country are joining a campaign to seize Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter's farmhouse to build a luxury hotel, according to the man who suggested it after Souter joined the majority that sided with New London, Conn., in a decision favoring government seizure of private property.

"We would act just as these cities have been acting in seizing properties. We would give Souter the same sort of deal," said Logan Darrow Clements of Los Angeles. A rival proposal from townspeople would turn Souter's land into a park commemorating the Constitution. ...

In a state where people fiercely protect their right to local control over land and government, many said the hotel gambit is Souter's just deserts.

Robin Ilsley, who makes syrup on a family farm about two miles from Souter's place, said the justice brought the controversy on himself. "It was a pretty stupid ruling," she said.

Her mother watched Souter grow up but is unsympathetic. "I like David very much, but I don't like his ideas," said Winnie Ilsley, 77, who runs a doll museum at her farm. "I just don't think it's fair," she said of the court's "takings" decision.

A recent University of New Hampshire poll found that 93 percent of state residents agree with her.

The notion of poetic justice rings true among New Hampshire citizens, apparently, which I admit surprises me. I expected this effort, which I called the Mark Twain option, to make its point and fade into obscurity. Granite State citizens instead have expanded it into a second proposal, one that sounds as if Weare residents have decided to make Souter's participation in the diminution of private property into very personal consequences to him and his family. I believe that the Freestar proposal has a better chance of success under Kelo as the commercial value matches better with the details of that case, but Weare shows that it has an open mind about using Kelo for any of several purposes with what may soon be the former property of David Souter.

Obviously, I oppose the confiscation of Justice Souter's land, just as I opposed Kelo for allowing the state to seize property from one private owner just to give it to another one that the state likes better. If we have to live in a Kelo world, however, it is only fair that Justice Souter live in it as well.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 24, 2005 9:39 PM

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