Berman v. Parker

Berman v. Parker

Infobox SCOTUS case
Litigants=Berman v. Parker
ArgueDate=October 19
DecideDate=November 22
FullName=Berman et al., Executors, v. Parker et al.
Citation=75 S. Ct. 98; 99 L. Ed. 27; 1954 U.S. LEXIS 1463
Prior="Kohl et al. v. United States"
Subsequent="Kelo v. City of New London"
Holding=The court ruled that private property could be taken for a public purpose with just compensation.
LawsApplied=District of Columbia Redevelopment Act of 1945

"Berman v. Parker", ussc|348|26|1954 is a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court that refined the clause "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation" in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The court ruled that private property could be taken for a public "purpose" with just compensation. This case opened the door for later cases ruling that condemnation of property needing economic improvement is a public purpose and therefore constitutional. Critics of recent occurrences of eminent domain uses trace what they view as property rights violations to this case.

Public use

"Berman" was reexamined in the 2005 Supreme Court decision "Kelo v. City of New London", in which the court merely reaffirmed existing precedent about the definition of public use for local governments to take private property by eminent domain. In 1984, the Court had already held in "Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff", 467 U.S. 229 (1984) redistribution of land from some private parties to other private parties could pass constitutional muster. However in "Midkiff", the distribution of land holdings in Hawaii were extremely unequal due to that state's unique history. O'Connor tried to craft an opinion which allowing for the state's actions, tried to limit incentives for expansive views of public purpose.


In 1945, the United States Congress passed the District of Columbia Redevelopment Act of 1945 to address the vast blighted area found in the District of Columbia. The Act created a commission of five members called the District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency and granted it the power to redevelop blighted areas and eliminate any "blighting factors or causes of blight." The act granted the Agency the power of eminent domain if necessary. After five years of planning, the Planning Commission published its results and determined that in one blighted area, "64.3% of the dwellings were beyond repair, 18.4% needed major repairs, only 17.3% were satisfactory; 57.8% of the dwellings had outside toilets, 60.3% had no baths, 29.6% lacked electricity, 82.2% had no wash basins or laundry tubs, 83.8% lacked central heating." The Commission's plans made "detailed provisions for the types of dwelling units and provides that at least one-third of them are to be low-rent housing with a maximum rental of $17 per room per month." The Commission then held a public hearing, after which the plan was approved.


After approval of the plan, owners of a department store in the area designated to be redeveloped brought suit to the court. The landowners claimed that because the department store itself was not blighted, its redevelopment was not necessary and would not constitute a public use. The owners further argued that taking the land under eminent domain and giving it to redevelopers amounted to "a taking from one businessman for the benefit of another businessman."


The Supreme Court unanimously decided in favor of the Planning Commission by arguing that the problem of large-scale blight needed to be addressed with a large-scale integrated redevelopment plan. Justice Douglas wrote in his opinion, "If owner after owner were permitted to resist these redevelopment programs on the ground that his particular property was not being used against the public interest, integrated plans for redevelopment would suffer greatly." As the Planning Commission had made detailed plans and taken extensive surveys of the area in question, the Supreme Court argued for judicial restraint. Douglas wrote, "In the present case, the Congress and its authorized agencies have made determinations that take into account a wide variety of values. It is not for us to reappraise them." Douglas addressed the issue presented by the landowners of "a taking from one businessman for the benefit of another businessman" by saying that a legitimate public purpose had been established by the Congress in creating the entire redevelopment plan. The Supreme Court found that though specific parcels of land may fall outside of a public use, they are necessary for the functioning of the redevelopment plan as a whole and so qualify as having public purpose. In this ruling, Justice Douglas expanded the definition of "public use" to include physical, aesthetic, and monetary benefits.

ee also

*List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 348

External links

*caselaw source
case="Berman v. Parker", 348 U.S. 26 (1954)

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