Kelo v. City of New London Case Brief

Facts of the case

New London, a city in Connecticut, used its eminent domain authority to seize private property to sell to private developers. The city said developing the land would create jobs and increase tax revenues. Susette Kelo and others whose property was seized sued New London in state court. The property owners argued the city violated the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause, which guaranteed the government will not take private property for public use without just compensation. Specifically, the property owners argued taking private property to sell to private developers was not public use. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled for New London.

Why is the case important?

In 2000, the city of New London approved a development plan that, in the words of the Supreme Court of Connecticut, was “projected to create in excess of 1,000 jobs, to increase tax and other revenues, and to revitalize an economically distressed city, including its downtown and waterfront areas.”&nbsp The city purchased property and seeks to enforce eminent domain to acquire the remaining parcels from unwilling owners.


Whether the city’s proposed disposition of this property qualifies as a public use within the meaning of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.


The city’s proposed disposition of petitioners’ property qualifies as a “public use” within the meaning of the Takings Clause. Public use in this case was broadly interpreted to mean “public purpose”.


The Court found that the development plan served a public purpose and therefore constituted a public use under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The plan was not adopted to benefit a particular class of identifiable individuals. Although the owners’ properties were not blighted, the city’s determination that a program of economic rejuvenation was justified was entitled to deference. There was no basis for exempting economic development from the broad definition of public purpose.

  • Advocates: Scott G. Bullock argued the cause for Petitioners Wesley W. Horton argued the cause for Respondents
  • Petitioner: Susette Kelo, et al.
  • Respondent: City of New London, Connecticut, et al.
  • DECIDED BY:Rehnquist Court
  • Location: City of New London Town Hall
Citation: 545 US 469 (2005)
Granted: Sep 28, 2004
Argued: Feb 22, 2005
Decided: Jun 23, 2005
Kelo v. City of New London Case Brief