September 7th, 2021 — In OCA Blog
OCA Member Thor Hearne Wins Big in Latest Rails to Trails Case
The United States Court of Federal Claims recently issued an important decison in a Rails to Trails case involving some 59 properties adjacent to a former railroad corridor in Newton County, Georgia. The owners were seeking just compensation under the Fifth Amendment stemming from the imposition of a recreational trail across their properties. The primary issues before the court were the amount of just compensation to be paid for the taking and the appropriate interest rate to apply given the delay between the date of the taking and the date of payment. The decision was filed on August 31, 2021and the case is Gloria Jackson vs. United States in the United States Court of Claims (Nos. 14-397L, 15-194L) The property owners were represented by OCA Member Thor Hearne who has tried many such Rails to Trails cases. Mr. Hearne successfully argued in the case that the just compensation due the property owners must include significant damages to their remaining properties. For more information about the Rails to Trails Act read this handy brochure from OCA’s Featured Articles.
September 7th, 2021 — In OCA Blog
Happy 30th Birthday to the Institute For Justice!
The Institute For Justice is celebrating its 30th birthday this month and we, at OCA, couldn’t be happier to share this good news with our own followers. Dana Berliner, IJ’s Senior Vice President and Litigation Director (who is also an Honorary member of OCA) recalls, “When I started at IJ in January 1994, we had yet to litigate our first property rights case. Now, 27 years later, it is our largest area of litigation, encompassing eminent domain, civil forfeiture, unconstitutional searches, zoning, and other areas.” IJ, which doesn’t charge its clients, has brought 10 cases to the Supreme Court and lost just one, Kelo v. City of New London. But that decision ended up propelling changes to restrict eminent domain takings for purely economic reasons in no less than 44 states through litigation, legislation, and even constitutional amendments. Thank you Institute for Justice for all you do to protect private property rights and private property owners.
July 26th, 2021 — In OCA Blog
OCA’s Maryland Member Joseph Suntum Fights for Property Owner in Baltimore Redeveloment Project
A Baltimore couple are at the center of an eminent domain dispute involving the redeveloment of the Poppleton neighborhood, fighting to preserve their home from being taken along with 500 other homes and lots included in a planned redevelopment being pursued by the city and a New York developer. The Eaddy family has owned their home since 1992 and Sonia Eaddy has spent years working as a community leader and volunteer in the neighborhood. After a devastating fire in 2012, she rebuilt her home and does not want to leave. Represented by OCA member Joseph Suntum, the Eaddys are arguing that the developer doesn’t have financing for his plans involving their property, and that though the redevelopment dates back some 15 years, hardly anything tangible has been realized from the efforts thus far, making the demolition of the Eaddy house unnecessary. Although a judge has ruled that the city has the authority to take the property, the Eaddy family has vowed to press on and appeal the matter. To learn more about the background of this case click here to read a recent article in the Washington Post.
July 8th, 2021 — In OCA Blog
Pennsylvania Property Owner Prevents Powerlines Across Property
When the Altoona/Logan Mobiile Emergency Medical Department Authority (AMED), an entity created by the city of Altoona to condemn property for a powerline to serve a new ambulance station, sought to take Roy Powell’s property, he objected. Represented by OCA Member Mike Faherty, Powell challenged the authority’s eminent domain power as well as the overly broad nature of the taking. On Tuesday, Powell was vindicated, when a three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court issued a lengthy decision reversing a lower judge’s dismissal of his objections. It ruled that AMED does not have the statutory power to condemn land for the purpose of installing electric transmission lines and also that the description of the property to be condemned for an easement was “inadequate.” OCA Member Faherty said after the ruling that his client was “elated” by the decision. “This is a great victory for Mr. Powell and for property rights,” he added.
June 29th, 2021 — In OCA Blog
Can States Build Border Walls?
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently announced state plans to build a border wall where the Trump administration left off. During his campaign and presidency, former President Donald Trump promised the construction of a wall along the border between the southern United States and Mexico. That construction was halted when President Joe Biden took office in 2021. Recently, Texas OCA Member Charles McFarland was asked to weigh in on Govenor Abbott’s plans. He stated that there are several logistical challenges to this plan, including the fact that much of the needed land is privately-owned. “Some property owners will likely sue the federal government over its use of eminent domain.” Click here to read the full exchange.
June 24th, 2021 — In News & Events
Pacific Legal Foundation Wins Big in Property Owner Taking Case
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in Cedar Point v. Hassid that California’s “access regulation” law allowing union organizers to enter agricultural property for a certain amount of time without the owner’s consent, constitutes a per se physical taking. In 2015, union activists entered Cedar Point Nursery seeking to encourage farm workers who worked there to join the United Farm Workers union. But the farm owner, Mike Fahner, didn’t give the union permission to come onto his property and wasn’t even made aware they were coming. Worse yet, Fahner wasn’t legally allowed to tell them to leave because of a California law allowing union activists to invade private property to recruit new members. Fahner and other California farmers challenged California’s law in court and their case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Click here to read the opinion in its entirety.
May 25th, 2021 — In News & Events
Pipeline Company Must Pay Owners’ Attorney Fees in Bayou Bridge Trespass
The Bayou Bridge Pipeline company must pay owners their attorneys fees after they prevailed in obtaining compensation awards based on the company commencing work on their lands before getting legal permission, the Louisiana Supreme Court recently ruled. The seven justices agreed that Louisiana’s 1974 Constitution allows attorneys’ fees and litigation costs as part of the just compensation to landowners who win eminent domain proceedings. The company had argued that it was not subject to payment of the owners’ attorney fees under state statutes, but the Supreme Court determined that the constitutional provision made them liable. Click here to read the court’s opinion.
May 16th, 2021 — In OCA Blog
Virginia Jury Awards Substantial Damage Award for Pipeline Bisecting Landowner’s Property
OCA member, Stephen Clarke’s representation of owners James and Kathy Chandler, resulted in a jury verdict of $430,000 against the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s taking of their “slice of heaven” atop Bent Mountain. The pipeline company had previously offered them $89,343 for their property. After a trial on value, the jury agreed with the property owner that the construction of the 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline would cause damages to the their 111-acre property by bisecting it and passing about 500 feet from their custom-built home. Commenting on the verdict, Stephen Clarke stated that “There’s a huge gap that cuts through the heart of their land, 125 feet wide and half a mile long.” In testifying before the jury, owner James Chandler told them that even though the pipeline would be buried, it will always be “a visual reminder. Nothing will be normal.” Stephen Clark is with the law firm of Waldo & Lyle.
May 12th, 2021 — In OCA Blog
Judge Makes Preliminary Ruling Against Apple Valley Taking Over Water System
A San Bernardino Superior Court judge ruled recently against the Town of Apple Valley in its attempt to take over its largest supplier of water, Liberty Utilities. The water provider is represented by OCA member, Ed Burg who practices out of Los Angeles with the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. In a preliminary ruling issued after an extensive bench trial, Judge Donald Alvarez found that Liberty Utilities had “disproved” the town’s arguments that its acquisition of the company’s water system would be in the public’s interest and a necessity. The ruling comes after a lengthy effort by Apple Valley to acquire the water system that has been ongoing since 2011. The town filed its eminent domain lawsuit in January 2016 when the system was owned by Ranchos Water Company. A copy of the Judge’s ruling can be view on the Town’s website.
May 1st, 2021 — In OCA Blog
Valuing Property During a Pandemic
OCA’s New York Member Mike Rikon’s recent blog posts takes on some of the tricky issues that have surfaced in valuing property during a pandemic. According to Mike, Covid-19’s impact on real estate valuations have made it difficult to apply the comparable sales approach, one of the often used methods for determining real estate values, particularly in eminent domain cases. Referring to statements made by real estate professionals like Lisa Loychik of Cohen & Co., the article suggests that it is debatable whether pre-Covid-19 sales can be considered comparable with post-pandemic sales. Thus, many valuators are looking beyond comparable sales and considering individual circumstances on a more granular level. This approach acknowledges that generalities are of limited value when Covid-19 may have different effects on different properties in the same neighborhood. To learn more about this issue, you an read Mike’s article in its entirety here.