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Jerold Kayden Delivers 2008 Norman Williams Lecture

February 22, 2008

CONTACT: Diane Derby

"For Whom the Bell Tolls: Reflections on Eminent Domain, Constitutional Review, and Public Attitudes"

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT – When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Kelo v. City of New London decision in June 2005, the reaction was loud and swift. The court's 5–4 ruling, which allowed the city to take Susette Kelo's home against her will to further economic development efforts, was met with outrage.

Kelo's pink Victorian cottage was not a scar on the landscape, it just happened to be located in the wrong place. Eminent domain was no longer a tool to be used just in blighted neighborhoods. It was now being used to take private property belonging to the middle class, and editorial writers, politicians and homeowners responded from all ends of the political spectrum.

"A firestorm," is how Professor Jerold S. Kayden of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design described the reaction.

"To me, the real story here is a political science story rather than a constitutional law story," Kayden told his audience as he delivered the 2008 Norman Williams Lecture at Vermont Law School last night. "This was dinner table and water cooler conversation."

"Suddenly," he said, "the bell was tolling for everybody."

Kayden used the Kelo case to illustrate the deeper issues of land taking and urban development, and concluded by telling his audience that "good professional morality" can play a vital role in the planning process, while eminent domain should be reserved as a tool of last resort.

Had the developers employed such morality in the Kelo case, they could have planned their project around the existing homes and thus avoided the court action and the firestorm that resulted, according to Kayden.

But, he added, "That just wasn't part of their ethos."

Read the Kelo opinion. (PDF)

An article on land takings published by Marc Mihaly, director of the Environmental Law Center at VLS and referenced by Kayden, can be found at: (PDF)

About Professor Kayden

Jerold S. Kayden is the Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where he also serves as Co-Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design and Director of the Master in Urban Planning Degree Program. His research and teaching focus on the relationship between law and the built environment and on public-private urban development. Professor Kayden earned his undergraduate, law, and city and regional planning degrees from Harvard, and subsequently served as law clerk to Judge James L. Oakes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.

About the Williams Lecture

Norman Williams came to Vermont Law School in 1975, after a long and distinguished career in public service and teaching, particularly in the area of land use planning. Professor Williams played a key role in founding Vermont Law School's Environmental Law Center. The annual Norman Williams Distinguished Lecture in Land Use Planning and the Law series is made possible by the gift of Frances Yates, trustee of Vermont Law School, in memory of both Norman Williams and Anya '94 and Charles Yates '93.

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