CJE Long Branch
Though it is sometimes easy to forget, constitutional cases have real-world consequences for the lives of real people. When judges abdicate their responsibilities, the consequences for individuals are frequently dire—homes and livelihoods are destroyed, voices are censored, and victims are left with no meaningful recourse. But the results of judicial engagement are equally important. When judges properly engage with the facts and the law of each case, there are direct benefits for individual rights—and a striking absence of the sorts of dire consequences often promised by the proponents of judicial abdication.
City of Long Branch v. Brower
CONTEXT: The Institute for Justice represented a group of homeowners in Long Branch, N.J., who fought their city’s effort to forcibly take their homes and hand the land over to private developers who planned to make tens of millions of dollars building upscale condos for the wealthy. In August 2008, a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Appellate Division unanimously reversed a 2006 decision of Superior Court Judge Lawrence Lawson, which had allowed Long Branch to condemn a neighborhood under the pretense of “blight” in order to build luxury condos. The court held that the government could not be allowed to take the property unless it first presented actual evidence that the property was blighted—a standard the lower court had not forced the government to meet.
CONSEQUENCE: Faced with the prospect of having to justify its takings with actual evidence, city officials in Long Branch backed down, leaving the homeowners free to enjoy their property in peace.