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Connecticut Justice Apologized to Kelo Plaintiff at a Private Gathering

Posted Sep 20, 2011 9:43 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Connecticut Supreme Court Justice has offered an apology to the plaintiff in a famous eminent domain case, surprising the author of a book on the dispute.

Justice Richard Palmer says his apology to Susette Kelo at the New Haven Lawn Club last year was an expression of regret for what she had gone through, according to author Jeff Benedict, who wrote about Palmer’s words to Kelo in an article for the Hartford Courant. “I would not want the reader to think that I was apologizing for my vote, which I was not doing,” Palmer wrote to Benedict before publication of the story.

Palmer approached Kelo last year after Benedict spoke and they were talking with a small group of people. Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Connecticut Supreme Court had sided with the city of New London, Conn., in the case, saying it could use eminent domain to acquire homeowners’ land for commercial development. Palmer had voted with the 4-3 Connecticut majority. The acquired land was never developed.

As Benedict tells the story, Palmer approached and turned to Benedict. "Had I known all of what you just told us, I would have voted differently,” Palmer said. Then the justice turned to Kelo, took her hand and apologized.

Palmer appeared to backpedal, however, when he spoke to Benedict before he published an account of the incident. At first, Palmer said his remarks "were predicated on certain facts that we did not know (and could not have known) at the time of our decision and of which I was not fully aware until your talk—namely, that the city's development plan had never materialized and, as a result, years later, the land at issue remains barren and wholly undeveloped."

Later Palmer told Benedict he thinks his court made the right decision insofar as it followed U.S. Supreme Court precedent. He said he does not allow emotions to sway his decisions.

Benedict is author of Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage. The book is being made into a Lifetime TV movie.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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