The use of “eminent domain” powers to seize private property is questionable under the best of circumstances, but the recent trend of local governments abusing eminent domain to seize private property in order to give it to other private parties for purely economic purposes is a great evil. It is rightly denounced, so those who profit from it are working to silence their critics.
The politically connected businesses that benefit from cozy relations with government organs wish above all to avoid public discussion of their plans and public criticism of same. This is because their plans often will not bear very much scrutiny. So of late they have resorted to specious defamation and libel lawsuits to bully those who criticize these projects. Here we are reminded of the great Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard, who once differentiated “naked” from “nekkid” this way: “Naked means you ain’t got on no clothes; nekkid means you ain’t got on not clothes and you’re up to something.” The eminent domain crowd is definitely up to something: Encounter Books and author Carla Main are currently the targets of a nekkid assault on free speech and public discourse at the hands of Dallas developer H. Walker Royall, whose attempts to get his hands on a family-owned business in Freeport, Texas, Main documented in her book, Bulldozed.
Royall already has sued the family that owns the business at the heart of this matter and another property-rights activist. But that wasn’t enough. Reports the Institute for Justice:
When Main was getting ready to publish Bulldozed, she reached out to nationally renowned scholar and law professor Richard Epstein to take a look at her work. Epstein is especially respected for his scholarship in the area of property rights. He teaches at the University of Chicago Law School and at New York University School of Law,and has published extensively on constitutional law, eminent domain and the Fifth Amendment. After reading a draft of the book, Epstein offered to provide a blurb for the back cover.
About one year after Bulldozed was released, Royall filed a second defamation lawsuit, this time against Main, Epstein and Encounter Books, the publisher of Bulldozed. Royall also sued two newspapers and a journalist who published reviews of Carla’s book. Royall’s claim is that, by engaging in a public discussion of Royall’s role in the eminent domain abuse that occurred in Freeport, the defendants have damaged his reputation. Royall has asked the court to order Encounter to shut down its printing press and not release any additional copies of Bulldozed.
Yes, you read that correctly: He’s suing newspapers for writing book reviews of a book he doesn’t want people to read. This is nonsense and it should be stopped.
The Institute for Justice has more here.