In 2013, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in favor of Alicia Seabaugh and Velma Jackson, two landowners in Scott County, Missouri, who fought to keep property that the Southeast Missouri Regional Port Authority wanted to take through eminent domain power.
The condemning authority wanted to take the property and use it to transfer oil from North Dakota through a lease from a private company. The land was an undeveloped 30 acres of land. Missouri is one of 44 states to pass stricter eminent domain laws after the Kelo v. City of New London ruling. With the new law, property cannot be taken through condemnation for economic development.
The decision had earlier favored the port authority in Scott County Circuit Court, which deemed the purpose to be river commerce as well as economic development. However, the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the decision on the basis that the two terms were synonymous and an interpretation of a law that was enacted in 2006 to limit the taking of property through condemnation for economic development.
This ruling is significant for the state. It reversed the trend of Missouri in allowing the use of eminent domain power for development projects. Missouri was one of the most active states in using this power to condemn properties in order to build up an area. In fact, private developers were even able to file for condemnation of properties on their own instead of going through government agencies.
The state Supreme Court does not have a reputation for protecting property rights of citizens, so this ruling is even more significant. In fact, the court indicated that the statute made it more difficult to take a property, which was the intention in its passage. The goal is to limit the opportunities organizations have for using this power.