In a largely symbolic gesture, voters in Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s hometown on Tuesday rejected a proposal to seize his 200-year-old farmhouse as payback for a ruling that expanded government’s authority to take property.
Even though voters overwhelmingly agreed to leave Souter’s home alone, it would have been safe whatever the outcome.
The vote was prompted by activists angered by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision last year in a property rights case from Connecticut. Souter sided with the majority in holding that governments can take property and turn it over to private developers.
Originally, the ballot measure called for the seizure of Souter’s home so that it could be turned into an inn called the Lost Liberty Hotel. But at a town meeting in February, residents of this town of 8,500 watered down the language.
Voters decided 1,167 to 493 in favor of the reworded measure that asked the Board of Selectmen not to use their power of eminent domain to take the farmhouse, and instead urged New Hampshire to adopt a law that forbids seizures of the sort sanctioned by the Supreme Court.
“It makes Souter the only person in the United States that would be given special protection against his own ruling,” said Logan Darrow Clements of Los Angeles, a businessman who led the campaign to evict Souter.
Souter has not commented on the matter.
Two of the major players pushing for the seizure of Souter’s home also lost their bids for the five-member Board of Selectmen on Tuesday.
Keith LaCasse, one of the candidates, said he would not have lobbied the board to seize Souter’s home unless a proposal saying so appeared on next year’s ballot.
Even if the two candidates were elected, the board would not have had a majority in favor of seizing Souter’s house.