Paul Jacob

To history's pile of outrageous and incomprehensible court decisions Missouri's Supreme Court just added yet another whopper. Last Tuesday the court handed down a decision so off-base that it leaves nearly everyone — right, left and in between — wondering whether they've just stepped into an alternative universe.

Unfortunately, this universe is all too real, all too familiar. The town of Arnold, Missouri set its sights on an area it wants to redevelop, declared it "blighted," and is taking the vast tract of land by force.

From residents who want to keep it. To live and work there. Residents like Homer Tourkakis.

Tourkakis, a dentist, stood up to fight for his business and his rights. The Pacific Legal Foundation, the Institute for Justice and citizen leader Ron Calzone of Missouri Citizens for Property Rights stood up behind him.

He thought he had a good case. After all, this land grab is not for a public use, but merely to flip the land over to private developers

He knew that the Fifth Amendment couldn't help him, of course — he and we lost its protections regarding eminent domain with Kelo. In that bit of infamy, the High Court ruled 5 to 4 that the Fifth Amendment limitation, that government could only confiscate private property for "public use," was essentially meaningless. "Public use" is whatever local governments decide it is.

But he did have the Missouri Constitution. State constitutions are often better than the federal, as I argued last week. Article 1. Section 2 says government's "chief purpose" is to secure the individual's right to "the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry." Stealing one's land for "economic development" doesn't jive with that section. And Article 1. Section 28 has even stronger language — "private property shall not be taken for private use with or without compensation, unless by consent of the owner" — than does our federal Constitution's Fifth Amendment.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.