Supreme Court Justice Scalia Talks Eminent Domain, Internment Camps

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia delivered a mixed forecast to University of Hawaii law students yesterday.

On the one hand, he said he has “no doubt” the court will eventually overturn a 2005 ruling that let the City of New London take Susette Kelo’s property using eminent domain and transfer it to a private corporation because the promised economic development constituted a public use.

As it turned out, the development never happened and the jobs never came, which Scalia called “poetic justice.”

“Kelo will not survive,” he said of the court’s 5-4 decision on the case in which he dissented. “I think the court was surprised by the reaction nationwide.”

On the other hand, Scalia said he could see another period of internment camps happening in America during a time of war. 

He was responding to a question about the famous case involving Fred Korematsu, a Japanese-American who was arrested in 1941 for violating a federal order authorizing the military to incarcerate people.

Scalia said the court’s 1944 decision in favor of the government was “wrong” but was repudiated in a later case.

“But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again,” he said. 

He used a Latin expression to explain why. “Inter arma enim silent leges … In times of war, the laws fall silent.”

"That’s what was going on — the panic about the war and the invasion of the Pacific and whatnot,” Scalia said. “That’s what happens. It was wrong, but I would not be surprised to see it happen again — in time of war. It’s no justification but it is the reality.”

Read more about Scalia’s talk in Civil Beat here.

Nathan Eagle

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Photo: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks to UH law students, Feb. 3, 2014. (Nathan Eagle/Honolulu Civil Beat)

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