We can't reproduce the entire interview, and the link to the online version is behind a partial paywall, but here are the highlights of a recent interview, where A. Kam Napier, the Editor-in- Chief of Pacific Business News, came by and chatted with us about eminent domain, property rights, and the Honolulu rail project.
- "Robert H. Thomas thinks it’s no accident that the Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights protects not only the right to due process for people accused of a crime but also the same rights for people who own property the government would like to take. The right of the people to be secure in their private property was that essential to the Founders.
- “'The Kelo decision was a direct result of the Midkiff decision, where essentially any public purpose that the government advances is going to be enough [to take the property] as long as there’s some way to tie it in to a public benefit,' Thomas said. 'Ironically, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the Midkiff decision [upholding the taking], it was her very first case as a justice. Her very last case before she retired 21 years later in 2005 was her dissent in Kelo [rejecting New London’s taking].'”
- "How fair is Hawaii’s eminent domain law, this being a famously liberal state with a professed concern for the little guy? 'I think our law is one of the most unfair in the country. They’re all generally unfair to the property owner. There are some, New York for instance, that are worse.'"
- "And yet eminent domain court battles are pretty rare in Hawaii. Why is that? 'Land is expensive and in an eminent domain taking, the government doesn’t just pay current value, it has to pay based on the best and highest use of the property so [local government typically avoids having to take private property because of the cost]. Then, on the property owner side, defending a condemnation suit has to pencil out — owners have to pay their own way for attorneys and appraisers if they think the government is undervaluing their land, even if the government loses and the jury awards a higher value.'"
- "People don’t realize, eminent domain is one of the few times where you can get sued for doing nothing wrong other than owning land the government wants."
Check out the entire interview here. "Robert Thomas on eminent domain" is the title, and a subscription is necessary to view the entire piece, sorry, although if you are in Honolulu, come on, you really should have a subscription to PBN.