Its a strange pinch really, because the interpretation of the constitution in this case did not fall along party lines. The four liberal judges voted in the developer's favor, and were joined by Anthony Kennedy, a conservative. The swing voter, Sandra Day-O'Connor, joined sides with the other mildly (Rehnquist) to extremely (Thomas) conservative judges. The conservative judges, for the most part, agree with what seems like practically every living person who has caught wind of the case. This rarely happens. I felt compelled to check up on the noise in the world. After reading some "professional" and "fucking awful" blogs (that were thoroughly commented upon) I decided to add to the vomitorium.
The court upheld a loose interpretation of the constitution, meaning that the document remains vital in the interests of the court and the possibility of interpreting it for future cases. A strict interpretation of this clause is like asking us to bury our heads in the sand. The idea that the loose interpretation puts words into the document that aren't there is a plausible one, but this argument is very quickly getting blown out of proportion. Justice Stevens (who wrote the majority opinion) argued that the New London plan is "carefully formulated" and "unquestionably serves a public purpose," and added that the "public use" clause of the fifth amendment needs further fleshing out.
I think people on both sides are feeding on this ruling because its an easy attack on "liberal / conservative / senile / out of touch judges." But the ruling has more to do with strict vs. loose intepretation of the constitution (I'm solely in favor of neither). The Times was in favor of the ruling (predictably I suppose), and commented on how the government's ability to compensate private land owners for publicly used land has been too often avoided by the conservative justices on the court. It has become an issue that affects private landowners (both poor and rich) but has not been challenged, merely vaguely upheld. The idea that the "public use" phrase was interpreted loosely means that future cases will allow for a broader definition of the term. I don't unanimously agree with this nor do I see this as a doomsday scenario. I don't see anyone rolling up to Elk Grove Dr. or Chippawa Circle or Dove's Kissing Terrace and asking you politely to get the fuck out, we're building something corporate here.
The favored response to this ruling has been invoking the old "they can build a stripmall where you live." Well if you live in a place where a stripmall is a suitable modification of your landscape, you should hand it over proudly. And since most Americans already live across the street from a stripmall anyway, I can't for the life of me wonder why this worries people so much. "A woman who lived in the same house for 87 years will be evicted because of this ruling.." And in those 87 years New London, CT's population has retarded and reversed, its unemployment doubled, its industry vanished. There are so many towns and small cities in the US absolutely starving for economic recovery in the face of exurban expansion that a ruling allowing city governments the power to take control over underutilized property is hardly deplorable. I do see this as a trend toward making private property a less stable commodity, but this is supported more by the construction rates of new housing developments further from city centers, by the ever-spreading suburban landscape, and not by this ruling. I highly doubt a church, public school, community center, or historic landmark are going to be torn down for the benefit of a private investor. The outrage of a local community can stifle the pursuit of developers on the small scale, and this ruling allows local government more power in deciding what purposes are best suited for its land.
I don't find anything remarkably heinous (or exciting) about that.