BERMAN v. PARKER
In 1945, Congress passed the District of Columbia Redevelopment Act, creating the District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency, whose purpose would be to identify and redevelop blighted areas of Washington, D.C. Congress gave the new agency the power of eminent domain – the ability to seize private property with just compensation. Berman and the other appellants owned a department store in one blighted area targeted by the commission and objected to the seizing of their property solely for beautification of the area. The landowners brought a civil suit in federal district court challenging the constitutionality of the Act. Their case was dismissed. They then appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Did the seizing of Berman and the other appellants' property for the purpose of beautification and redevelopment of the community violate the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment?
Legal provision: Takings Clause
No. In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice William O. Douglas, the Court found that the Fifth Amendment does not limit Congress' power to seize private property with just compensation to any specific purpose. The Court concluded that the power to determine what values to consider in seizing property for public welfare is Congress' alone. "If those who govern the District of Columbia decide that the Nation's Capital should be beautiful as well as sanitary, there is nothing in the Fifth Amendment that stands in the way."