Little Pink House, the film based on the notorious 2005 Supreme Court ruling commonly known as Kelo v New London (often shortened to simply “Kelo“) is set to hit theaters April 20 in limited release in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Atlanta. At present, there are no plans for the movie to be released in the Nashville market, but that could change based on requests from local movie theaters.
The movie, based on the book of the same name, tells the true story of Susette Kelo’s struggle against the eminent domain abuse of some twenty neighborhood households by an alliance of business interests, state and city officials of New London, Connecticut.
“Little Pink House is more than a movie, it’s a movement, and the hybrid approach gives our fans new ways to use the film to fight for positive change in their neighborhoods,” writer-director Courtney Moorehead Balaker told The Hollywood Reporter.
Catherine Keener and Jeanne Tripplehorn star in the film that follows Susette Kelo, a nurse who lived in a modest home on the New England coast. Kelo denied demands by politicians and developers she sell her home.
Citing ‘the public interest,’ officials from New London and the State of Connecticut invoked eminent domain – ‘The Takings Clause’ contained in the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution. The aim was to develop condos and office space to the advantage of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in a planned office/retail development to be used as it was ramping up production for a new drug they were preparing to release called “Viagra.”
The Tennessee Star has been watching for the release of the film for nearly a year, first discussing its importance in the The Star’s Constitution Series article, “The Fifth Amendment:”
Susette Kelo, a nurse who owned “a little pink house” in New London, Connecticut was forced to sell it to the city of New London against her wishes based on that decision.
The Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in Kelo v. New London was that year’s blockbuster. Literally. The Court gave its blessing to the use of eminent domain to destroy blocks of housing so that city officials could pursue their dreams of a more wondrous community by seizing private property for a planned commercial development,” George Leef wrote at Forbes Magazine recently:
That taking had been challenged on the grounds that the precise wording of the Fifth Amendment’s provision allowing eminent domain – that the property had to be taken for “public use” – did not countenance takings where there was merely a purported “public purpose” in doing so. The Court’s “liberal” wing didn’t care either about the Constitution’s precise words or the harm its ruling would inflict on lots of “little guy” owners whose modest properties stood in the way of grandiose political projects.
Kelo is among the many cases demonstrating that ordinary Americans are served best by the strict rule of law rather than by “progressive” jurisprudence that empowers government officials.
And that is the message strongly conveyed by the recently released movie about Susette Kelo’s fight with the arrogant officials in New London, CT. Little Pink House premiered February 2 at the Santa Barbara film festival. In the film, Catherine Keener (who was nominated for an Oscar for her roles in Being John Malkovich and Capote) portrays Susette Kelo, the nurse who refused to meekly accept the city’s decision to force her out of the small home she had fixed up and loved. A clip from the film is available here.
“In the end,” Leef concluded, “the homes belonging to Susette Kelo and her neighbors were demolished for no purpose at all, since the hoped-for development collapsed. What was once a nice residential area is now acres of rubble. Perhaps some viewers will get the message that big government plans are prone to turning into boondoggles. Perhaps some others will get the point that it’s morally wrong for government officials to treat property owners as pawns on a chessboard, easily exchanged for a positional advantage in the game.”
Few issues will inflame the sensibilities of a limited-government-type person faster than a conversation about eminent domain. The concept of the government taking privately owned property for its own use seems antithetical to the American Experience.
So it is no surprise that ten years after Kelo, then-candidate Donald Trump made many on the Right uneasy when he discussed his use of eminent domain in the course of his business. However, Mr. Trump seemed to emphasize that invoking ‘The Takings Clause’ is an expensive option of last resort that should only be used to accomplish a material ‘public good.’
Defying strafing criticisms from his Left and especially his Right, Mr. Trump stuck to his position, and took time to explain why:
Many conservative pundits and Tea Party activists are criticizing GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s ongoing support of eminent domain, but the real estate billionaire is not backing down.
“It would have been easy to say I’m totally against eminent domain but that is not a fair thing to say because without it, states couldn’t function,” GOP Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump tells Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.
But Trump offers a somewhat more nuanced understanding of eminent domain to Breitbart News, one that seems to acknowledge that using it for exclusively private gain is the wrong thing to do.
“If you were going [to use eminent domain] to rip down a house and build another house, no way,” Trump says.
What’s interesting to note about Mr. Trump’s position is that within the Kelo decision, the Court explicitly said that the States had the right, through legislation – to limit the conditions where eminent domain could be invoked. After the controversial decision was handed down, virtually all the states took the Court up on their “offer” and moved quickly to strengthen their private property laws and strictly limit how eminent domain could be used.
A few years later, 44 of the 50 states passed either legislation or constitutional amendments limiting the use of eminent domain. The five states who, to this day, opted not to act are: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Hawaii.