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Opinion Date: 07/30/2004
e-Journal Date: 08/03/2004
Full Text Opinion

Practice Area(s):   Municipal
Constitutional Law

Issues: Eminent domain; Whether the proposed condemnations were necessary for public purposes; Whether the purposes were within the scope of the county’s powers; Whether the takings were “for the use or benefit of the public”; Poletown Neighborhood Council v. Detroit; Const.1963, art. 10, § 2; MCL 213.23; Retroactivity
Court: Michigan Supreme Court
Case Name: County of Wayne v. Hathcock
e-Journal Number: 24048
Judge(s): Young, Jr., Corrigan, Taylor, and Markman; Concurring in part, Dissenting in part – Weaver; Concurring only with section I of Justice Weaver’s partial concurrence and partial dissent – Cavanagh; Separately Concurring in part, Dissenting in part – Cavanagh and Kelly

Although the condemnation of defendants’ properties was consistent with MCL 213.23, the court held the proposed condemnations did not advance a “public use” as required by Const.1963, art. 10, § 2. Section 2 permits the exercise of the power of eminent domain only for a “public use.” Wayne County attempted to use the power of eminent domain to condemn defendants’ real properties for the construction of a 1,300-acre business and technology park to reinvigorate the struggling economy of southeastern Michigan. However, the court concluded Wayne County’s intent to transfer the condemned properties to private parties in this manner was inconsistent with the common understanding of “public use” at the time the Michigan Constitution was ratified. The court held the Poletown analysis provided no legitimate support for these proposed condemnations, and was overruled. Further, the decision to overrule Poletown was given retroactive effect to apply to all pending cases in which a challenge to Poletown was raised and preserved. The judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed and the case was remanded for entry of an order of summary disposition in defendants’ favor.

Justice Weaver concurred with the majority’s result and decision to overrule Poletown, but did so for her own reasons. She dissented from the majority’s reliance on its recently created rule of constitutional interpretation that gives constitutional terms the meaning that those “versed” and “sophisticated in the law” would have given it at the time of the Constitution’s ratification, and its application of the new rule to the facts of this case.

Justices Cavanagh and Kelly wrote separately because they believed the analysis offered by Justice Ryan in his dissent in Poletown offered the best rationale to explain why Poletown should be overruled. Further, they dissented from the majority’s conclusion the decision should be applied retroactively and would have applied the decision prospectively only.

Full Text Opinion

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