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February 11th, 2016 — By — In News & Events

Property Rights Lawyer Donald Joe Willis Honored With OCA’s 2016 Crystal Eagle Award

On January 30, 2016 Owners’ Counsel of America honored Oregon property rights, land use and condemnation attorney Donald Joe Willis with the Crystal Eagle Award for his advocacy over more than four decades on behalf of private property owners in land use, eminent domain and regulatory takings litigation throughout Oregon and nationally.

Oregon property rights attorney Donald Joe Willis with the Crystal Eagle Award

Oregon property rights lawyer Donald Joe Willis received the 2016 Crystal Eagle Award on January 30, 2016.

Donald Joe Willis: A Champion for Property Rights

Willis, a Shareholder with the Pacific Northwest law firm Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt has represented landowners in many condemnation actions before both courts and juries. He has also successfully litigated numerous land use cases involving the validity and application of government regulations before the Land Use Board of Appeals and in State and Federal courts.  A graduate of the University of Oregon and the University of Oregon School of Law, Joe served in the Navy before beginning his career in 1971 at the firm where he worked closely with John Schwabe, a well-known condemnation lawyer whose practice reached across the west coast.

“Joe is extremely passionate about the law,” said Jill Gelineau, OCA Oregon Member.  “Perhaps the reason he is so passionate, is because he understands how much the law impacts regular people.”  Gelineau added, “Joe cares deeply about property rights but he also cares genuinely for his clients.  He puts himself in his client’s shoes and views the case from the client’s perspective.”

In 1978, Willis was appointed as the Oregon Commissioner to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL).  He was reappointed to the position by five separate Oregon Governors and has since been honored with a lifetime membership. Appointed by the Oregon Law Commission to served on the Eminent Domain Work Group, Willis participated in redrafting the state’s Eminent Domain Code.  Additionally, He is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and has served for over a decade on the Board of Directors of the Pacific Legal Foundation.

As John Schwabe was a mentor to him, Joe has been an exceptional mentor to a number of attorneys, particularly those in his firm’s Condemnation and Land Use groups.

Read more about the Mr. Willis and the Crystal Eagle Award here.

Property rights lawyer Donald Joe Willis

Property rights attorney and 2016 Crystal Eagle recipient Donald Joe Willis addresses the Owners’ Counsel of America before accepting the Eagle Award.

Some of Willis’ Noteworthy Cases

  • Dolan v. City of Tigard, Case no. 94-1259 in the Circuit Count for Washington County, Oregon, in which he represented the Dolan family.  Upon remand from the United States Supreme Court, Willis tried the case with Jill Gelineau reaching a settlement with the city before the trial was completed.
  • State ex rel English v. Multnomah County, 348 Or. 417, 238 P.3d 980 (2010), a land use and regulatory takings case that he handled at every level, including oral argument before the Oregon Supreme Court. In this highly publicized case which the Oregonian newspaper described as “Oregon’s best known land use case.” Willis sued Multnomah County on behalf of Mrs. English under an Oregon law providing compensation when a change in zoning prevented development. A recovery of $1.15 million in damages and $1.15 million in fees vindicated Mrs. English’s efforts.
  • Danebo Properties v. City of Eugene, a regulatory takings case in which Willis together with Gelineau recovered a $3.95 million settlement against the City of Eugene on behalf of the developer. Here, the judge categorized the city’s demands for an unlawful dedication as “extortion.”
  • Molony v. Crook County, in which the Ninth Circuit sustained a jury award of over a million dollars on a civil rights claim against the County stemming from a developer’s unsuccessful attempts to develop his property.
  • West Linn Corporate Park LLC v. City of West Linn, a case which Willis and Gelineau tried in federal court. At issue was the application of Dolan‘s rough proportionality standards to the city’s demand that the developer make offsite improvements in order to obtain land use approval. The case wound its way through the Ninth Circuit and Oregon Supreme Court. The Ninth Circuit refused to extend the principles of Dolan and Nolan to the City’s demand for offsite improvements, even though the proposed offsite improvements were not roughly proportional. Willis sought the review of the U.S. Supreme Court, however, the Court declined.   In 2012, the Court accepted review of the Koontz case and rendered a decision on the identical legal issue with a strong opinion in favor of private property rights.
Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt attorneys with Crystal Eagle Award.

Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt attorneys (L to R): Kelly Walsh, Jill Gelineau, D. Joe Willis, Dennis Dunphy and Jamila Johnson.

OCA is honored to present the 2016 Crystal Eagle Award to Joe Willis for his efforts advancing private property rights and mentoring a generation of property rights attorneys.