County of Wayne v. Hathcock

Anyone who owns a home, a small business or a piece of property became a whole lot more secure in those possessions on July 30, 2004. That was when the Michigan Supreme Court released a unanimous decision ruling unequivocally that the government may not use eminent domain to take private property because someone else’s use of the property might be more profitable. Although many observers were hoping for a good decision, the unanimous ruling in County of Wayne v. Hathcock crossed political lines and surpassed all expectations.

The Court unanimously overruled the infamous Poletown decision and caused a seismic shift in the legal battle between home and business owners, on the one side, and an unholy alliance of tax-hungry bureaucrats and land-hungry developers on the other.

Decided in 1981 by the Michigan Supreme Court, Poletown was the first major decision in the United States upholding the use of eminent domain for “economic development”—increasing tax revenues, jobs and the local economy generally.

Essential Background



Release: Landmark Eminent Domain Abuse Decision: Michigan Supreme Court Halts Eminent Domain For “Economic Development”—Court States Poletown Was “Erroneous” (July 31, 2004)


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Legal Briefs and Decisions


Download: IJ's Amicus Brief


Download: Michigan Supreme Court Opinion




Case Timeline

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Additional Releases


Maps, Charts and Facts

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MAP: State Supreme Court Rulings On Eminent Domain for Private Development



IJ’s first-ever nationwide census of eminent domain abuse:  Public Power, Private Gain






Op-eds, News Articles and Links



Article: Home, Safe Home (October 2004)

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