The Warren Court (1953–69)

Freedom of Religion

What did the Warren Court rule with respect to the power of eminent domain?

The Warren Court gave a relatively broad interpretation of the power of eminent domain in Berman v. Parker (1954). The case involved a challenge to the District of Columbia Redevelopment Act of 1945. Under this law, Congress gave D.C. officials the power to condemn land and sell it to private developers under the auspices of urban renewal. The owners of a department store in an area subject to condemnation contended that the government violated their Fifth Amendment rights to their property by taking their land. The Warren Court determined that there was no Fifth Amendment violation, ruling that “it is within the power of the legislature to determine that the community should be beautiful as well as healthy.” The challengers contended that the legislature cannot take land from one private landowner and give it to another private landowner. However, the Court determined that as long as the transfer served a “public purpose,” there was no constitutional violation.


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