The Crystal Eagle Honors Those Who Defend and Protect Private Property Rights
Each year, OCA presents the Crystal Eagle to an individual who has made a substantial contribution toward advancing private property rights. By presenting the award, OCA seeks not only to highlight and honor an individual’s dedication and efforts to further the cause of private ownership but also to bring attention to private property rights, the use and misuse of eminent domain and the core beliefs held by OCA and its members that the right to own property is constitutionally guaranteed and fundamental to American society. By scrolling below you can see a listing of the year and amazing achievements of several past recipients of the Crystal Eagle award.
If you know of someone who is deserving of the Crystal Eagle, please contact the Executive Director of OCA at our Toll Free No. 877-367-6963 or email us at info@ ownerscounsel.com
Recipients of the Crystal Eagle Award Over the Last Decade
For 2023, the Crystal Eagle was awarded jointly to two extraordinary women. Sonia Eaddy is a homeowner, resident of west Baltimore, and community activist and Nicole King is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County. The award commemorates their efforts to save the historic black neighborhood of Poppleton from being destroyed and replaced by an ill-conceived, poorly planned, and largely failed urban renewal project. Although this project came into existence nearly 50 years ago, and resulted in the destruction of over 500 private properties, very little redevelopment has taken place. Meanwhile, the neighborhood of Poppleton has been left to suffer the loss of its’ homes, shops, and businesses.
But instead of giving up, the residents have fought back. Led by determined Sonia Eaddy and Professor Nicole King (whose knowledge and research of the disastrous impact that urban renewal has had on black and brown communities, particularly in Baltimore, proved invaluable in changing hearts and minds) they have now convinced city officials to withdraw the eminent domain taking of Sonia Eaddy’s home and several historic town homes. But these two remarkable women are not done fighting. They understand that the movement they started is far bigger than any one or two people. They intend to continue their grassroots community effort to force the City to consider the needs and desires of all stakeholders in any redevelopment that should take place, but particularly the residents of Poppleton.
James Singer is a lawyer with the law firm of Schuchat, Cook & Werner in St. Louis, MO. This year Mr. Singer received the Crystal Eagle in recognition of the time, commitment and devotion he displayed in bringing to the public’s attention the tragic story of Dr. Phillip Venable, a prominent African American doctor who, some 65 years ago, was precluded from moving into what was then the predominantly white neighborhood of Creve Coeur, through a racially motivated act of eminent domain that resulted in Dr. Venable’s property and partially constructed home being taken for a public park. Mr. Singer not only wrote the historical article that gave light to this injustice, but motivated countless others to exert pressure on the city to acknowledge what had been done and to make meaningful amends, including the renaming of the park after Dr. Venable.
Christina Walsh is the Director of Activism and Coalitions for the Institute of Justice. Christina was awarded the Crystal Eagle for her work on behalf of property owners everywhere who face the forced taking of their property and neighborhoods by eminent domain for private economic development projects that too often are based on baseless blight determinations. Through community meetings, rallies, protests, workshops and strategic grassroots and legislative campaigns, Christina has successfully organized home and small business owners from New York to Chicago to California to defeat government officials in their efforts to force landowners to transfer their valuable property rights to wealthy private developers without adequate justification for compensation.
Efren Olivares is the Director of the Texas Civil Rights Project’s Racial and Economic Justice Program. Efren was awarded the Crystal Eagle in honor of his efforts on behalf of private property owners living along the U.S. and Mexico Border who faced the loss of their property by eminent domain for the development of border security measures. Efren and other dedicated members of TCRP educate landowners about their constitutional rights in taking situations, provide legal representation to those that would not otherwise be able to afford a lawyer to defend their property rights, collaborate with non-profits and private law firms who are assisting in these efforts on a pro bono basis, and interact with local and national media outlets to make sure property owners have a public voice and that their stories are told.
The Crystal Eagle was awarded to Luis Gallardo-Rivera for his passion and commitment to the protection of private property rights in his native country of Puerto Rico. Working with other dedicated citizens who believe that the residential communities of Puerto Rico need not be sacrificed in the name of economic and private redevelopment projects, Luis fought diligently to transform and modernize Puerto Rico’s eminent domain laws. In 2015 Luis was instrumental in the drafting and lobbying for the passage of House Bill 2321, a major piece of legislation designed to update and transform the eminent domain laws of Puerto Rico to provide greater due process safeguards. Although HB 2321 did not pass, eventually through his efforts and others the eminent domain laws in Puerto Rico were re-drafted to provide greater property owner protections.
Dixon Montague, a partner with the law firm of Vinson Elkins in Houston,Texas worked tiredless on behalf of property owners for the entirety of his 30 year practice, representing his clients in eminent domain, inverse condemnation, and regulatory takings cases against local, state, and federal authorities in federal and state courts. Dixon was recognized as a Texas Super Lawyer annually since 2005 and listed in the Best Lawyers in America annually since 2008. He was honored as a Best Lawyer of the Year for Eminent Domain and Condemnation Law in 2012 and 2015.Dixon also served as a member of the Board of the Pacific Legal Foundation during a time when it experienced some of its most important victories for property rights, including the famous Koontz case. “All of us at PLF who knew Dixon will miss his passion and wisdom, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family,” says Jim Burling, OCA member and Vice President of Litigation for PLF. Dixon was also the designated Texas member for OCA for many years.
As a lawyer with the Pacific Northwest law firm of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, Joe Willis represented landowners in many condemnation actions before both courts and juries. He 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 for many years before her retirement. “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.”
David Callies (2015)
As a Professor of Law at the University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law, David Callies teaches property, land use, and state and local government law. A prolific writer, Callies has authored or co-authored 20 books and over eighty articles on topics relating to real property law, takings law, and land use and development in both the United States and Asia. In 2007, his book Taking Land: Compulsory Purchase and Land Use Regulation in the Asia-Pacific (with Kotaka) (U.H. Press, 2002) was republished in Japanese. Additionally, his book, Land Use Controls in the United States is published in both Japanese and Chinese. He authored the article “Takings, Physical and Regulatory,” addressing the use of U.S. property law precedents by Hong Kong’s highest court that was published in a special 2007 edition of the Asia Pacific Law Journal to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong’s establishment as a special administrative region of China. Dean Avi Soifer said, “It is wonderfully fitting that David Callies has been honored in this way. He has been a standout teacher and scholar at our Law School for decades during which he has informed, challenged, and creatively provoked a generation of our students.”
Coy A. Koontz, Jr. (2014)
The contribution of Coy Koontz Jr. and his family has been truly history-making: Through their unflagging, years-long battle against a Florida agency’s confiscatory actions, they were able to achieve a Supreme Court ruling that protects all property owners from being victimized and extorted by land use permit authorities. “My family and I have given up so much of our lives for this fight because we believe that owning your property ought to mean something — that the government can’t control you unreasonably,” said Mr. Koontz. In the case, Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, Coy Koontz Jr. was represented at the Supreme Court by attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation, a legal watchdog organization that litigates nationwide for property rights and limited government.
James Burling (2013)
James Burling was awarded the Crystal Eagle for his commitment to protecting individual liberty, especially the right of private property ownership. As the Director of Litigation and principal attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, for many years Burling battled the government on behalf of private property owners across the United States in eminent domain, land use regulation and regulatory takings challenges. After joining PLF in 1983, over the last 3 decades, he has litigated cases from Alaska to Florida involving regulatory takings, environmental and land use regulations, eminent domain, and Indian law. In 2001, Mr. Burling successfully argued a landmark property rights case, Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, 533 U.S. 606 (2001), before the United States Supreme Court. Palazzolo established that government is not freed from liability for regulatory infringements against property rights simply because the property might be transferred to an new owner.
Listing of All Crystal Eagle Award Winners
The Crystal Eagle Award has previously been awarded to: Gideon Kanner (2001), Dana Berliner (2002), Phil Reisman (2004), Alan Ackerman (2005), Dean Starkman (2005), James Ely (2006), Dennis Hartig (2007), Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes (2009), Norman Oder and Robbie Whelan (2010), Michael Berger (2011), Toby Prince Brigham (2012), James S. Burling (2013), Coy A. Koontz, Jr. (2014), David L. Callies (2015), Joe Willis (2016), Dixon Montague (2017), Luis Gallardo-Rivera (2018), Efrén C. Olivares (2019), Christina Walsh (2020), James Singer (2022), and Sonia Eaddy and Nicole King (2023).