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Albert Paschall

Somedays:

The difference between lawyers and onions

by Albert Paschall

What's the difference between a bad lawyer and good lawyer? A bad lawyer can drag out a case for months; a good one can drag it out for years.

Lawyers get unfairly blamed for society's troubles. It's not their fault that consumers get major settlements from trivial and often alleged business abuses or that class-action has become late night TV's favorite commercial. The lawyers didn't create the incredibly expensive mess that we call justice. At least not while they are lawyers. They have to wait until they become judges to do that. When the Supreme Court of the United States does it in a big way, like they did last week, there's a secret room in the American Bar Association that the staff goes into and yells: "yyeeess!"

Last week the "moderate" 5 on the U. S. Supreme Court: Justices Stevens, Souter, Bader-Ginsberg, Kennedy and Byer took the Fifth Amendment and ran it threw their shredders in the name of "economic development." That's the amendment that used to say: "nor shall private property be taken for public use." Courtesy of the justices' wisdom it now reads: "private property can be stolen by a government and sold to somebody else." The affect in Pennsylvania in the case of Kelo v. New London means that the unemployment rate among real estate and government lawyers will be very low for years to come.

Susette Kelo bought a cottage in the Fort Trumbull section in the city of New London Connecticut a decade ago. She told the Washington Post that she had restored it from the concrete basin to the shingles on the roof. The newspaper described the house as: "cozy, Victorian." Five years ago the city informed Ms. Kelo that her home, in fact her entire neighborhood, was to be condemned by the city for the purpose of "economic development." The city intends to seize the land and sell it to private developers who promise to build townhouses, a marina and hotels. Kelo, with the help of the American Institute for Justice, led her neighbors in a fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week the "moderate" 5 gave New London all the gas that its bulldozers needed to destroy her neighborhood, shattering long held rights of private property owners in this country.

In Pennsylvania, the state that boasts Wal-Mart as its largest employer, the Governor uses the slogan "economic development" every day. Lawyers should be rejoicing. Governments' condemnation of private property has already been a major profit center for juris prudence, now its jackpot time.

Can't count the Chester County lawyers that have been involved since 1999 when the city of Coatesville tried to condemn the Saha family farm to make way for a golf course. It didn't matter that it wasn't even in Coatesville but in nearby Valley Township.

Stanford Cramer of Dauphin County may be in court awhile. He owns Cramer's Airport Parking at Harrisburg International Airport. The airport's authority condemned his business to build a cargo base. Cramer is suspicious that the authority is trying to knock out competition to its own parking garage.

In York County's Winslow Township, developer Peter Alecxih better have deep pockets because he's taking on the county commissioners. He had plans for the 80 acres that he owns there. The commissioners want to seize it and make it a park.

While on Philadelphia's Main Line a family owned business with an 80 year history in the same location has forged a desperate coalition to try to keep the government's wrecking ball from destroying their family's livelihood.

All of these people menaced in the name of "economic development."

What's the difference between cutting up an onion and cutting up a lawyer? You don't cry when you cut up the lawyer.

Don't laugh, this decision is a bad joke for all of us. Instead shed a real tear for Susette Kelso and all those like her who will suffer the anguish of losing their property to the whims of bureaucrats. A 48-year-old nurse who just wanted to keep the home she worked for got bulldozed by what is supposed to be the ultimate court of fairness. The ultimate court of justice.

Then pray that someday some government doesn't use this awful decision to seize your property.

Albert Paschall
Senior Commentator
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.