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Movie rights purchased in Supreme Court Kelo case

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Susette Kelo—the working class nurse who lost her waterfront home in an epic U.S. Supreme Court battle—has lived a life that reads like a Hollywood movie, and now that is exactly what it will become. Today, June 23, 2014 marks the 9th anniversary of the Supreme Court's rulling in the Kelo case.

Producers Ted and Courtney Balaker of Korchula Productions today announced they purchased the movie rights to the book “Little Pink House,” which documented the behind-the-scenes story behind the Kelo fight against eminent domain abuse, and they also purchased the life rights to Kelo’s personal story. With those rights secured, the script ready, and funding expected to be completed this year, Korchula Productions plans to move forward with casting and move into production of the theatrical movie in the spring of 2015. Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the infamous ruling in Kelo v City of New London, a much-despised decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government could take the homes of ordinary Americans and hand the land over to another private party for the mere promise that the new project would raise more money in taxes.

The Balakers described the plot in an oped in yesterday’s USA Today, “The recently divorced nurse was on her own for the first time in her life and fell in love with a rundown little house overlooking a river in New London, Conn. She fixed it up with her own hands and painted it pink. Little did she know that powerbrokers from city hall to the governor’s mansion were bent on seizing her little pink house and the homes of her neighbors so that Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, could enhance its corporate facilities. City officials promised more tax revenue and Pfizer execs looked forward to high-end housing and other perks. Pfizer had high hopes for a soon-to-be-released drug called Viagra.”

The New York Times called the Kelo conflict “a classic David and Goliath story,” and The Wall Street Journal wrote, “Ms. Kelo is a classic American heroine—the feisty little guy who takes on city hall and corporate fat cats in pursuit of a just cause.”

The case inspired a popular backlash against eminent domain abuse nationwide. Since the ruling, 44 states have changed their laws or amended their constitutions to better protect private property, and nine state supreme courts have made it more difficult for government to engage in eminent domain abuse. Property owners, however, have recently suffered through an uptick in eminent domain abuse.

Commenting on the announcement, Susette Kelo said, “We went through hell with this legal fight and in the end, we lost our homes and the view that we loved so much. But our battle helped unite the country and put the issue of eminent domain on the map. We hope this movie will inspire people to finish the job, to change the laws across the country and to ensure that no one has to go through what we went through.”

Chip Mellor, president of the Virginia-based Institute for Justice, the public interest law firm that represented Kelo before the U.S. Supreme Court, added “Eminent domain takes a huge toll not only on the homeowners who are battling for what is rightfully theirs, but on the fabric of the Constitution that was designed to ensure people like Susette Kelo would be safe from eminent domain for private gain. Susette’s heroic story will make an inspirational movie.”

Ted Balaker founded Korchula Productions with his wife Courtney to make important ideas entertaining. Between the two of them, they have produced for the likes of Dimension Films/The Weinstein Company, Universal Pictures, Drew Carey, ABC News, and PBS.

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