OCA Blog

November 9th, 2021 — In News & Events

Meet Nina Sawaya, Toby Prince Brigham OCA Scholar for 2022

Owners’ Counsel of America (OCA) is pleased to announce that Nina Sawaya, a second year law student attending Denver University Sturm College of Law, will be the first recipient of the Toby Prince Brigham OCA Scholarship. Created in 2021 following the passing of OCA’s founder, Toby Prince Brigham, the scholarship is designed to inspire the next generation of lawyers to take up the cause of protecting and defending private property rights, a cause that Mr. Brigham fought for on behalf of countless property owners during the entire 54 years of his eminent domain law practice.

The prestigious Toby Prince Brigham OCA Scholarship offers the opportunity, at no expense, for a U.S. law student to meet, learn from, and network with the nation’s leading eminent domain and property rights lawyers through attendance at the pre-eminent property rights conference in the country, now approaching its 40th year. Held annually at different locations, for 2022 the ALI-CLE Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation Conference will take place Jan. 27-29 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The decision to select Nina Sawaya was made by the OCA Board of Directors and Scholarship Committee after extensive outreach to several law schools across the country. Personal recommendations were sought from deans, law professors and others with knowledge of students possessing a genuine interest in private property rights. “In selecting Nina Sawaya,” says OCA Executive Director, Leslie Fields, “both the Scholarship Committee and Board were impressed with her academic record, proven interest and commitment to private property rights, and her prior work experience in the area of real estate. They felt in the end that she was the ideal candidate. OCA is thrilled to make this professional experience available to such an outstanding student.”

If you, or someone you know, may be interested in applying for the Toby Prince Brigham OCA Scholarship for next year, please contact Leslie Fields, Executive Director of OCA at ownerscounsel@gmail.com or by phone at 303-806-5155.

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October 25th, 2021 — In Articles

New ABA Article: Michael Berger, “Whither Regulatory Takings”

OCA Honorary Member Michael Berger has authored a new article entitled, “Whither Regulatory Takings.” In it he compares the law that looks to the Fifth Amendment as the guardian against overly stringent government regulation to the everyday legal outcome of most property owners making a regulatory taking claim: recovery denied. As Mr. Berger writes, “For the uninitiated it has become very difficult for a property owner to prevail in a regulatory taking case. Indeed, two commentators likened such litigation to a “high-stakes game of craps.” This statement explains Justice Thomas’s comment that if the Court really does not believe in regulatory takings, it “should say so.” To read Mr. Berger’s outstanding article in its entirety click here

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October 1st, 2021 — In OCA Blog

OCA Member Kermitt Waters Prevails in Golf Club Takings Case

Judge Timothy Williams ruled on Tuesday in favor of developer EHB, represented by OCA Member Kermitt Waters, finding that a city’s actions in stalling the developer’s housing plans were tantamount to a taking. In recent years, the Las Vegas City Council either held up or rejected plans to build homes on much of the closed golf course property, leading the developer to claim that such delays and denials were unnecessary and aimed at preserving the private land’s use for the surrounding public. For many years a coalition of residents in the upscale Queensridge neighborhood, which the course weaves through, cited fears of high density and diminishing property values in opposing the developer’s plans.

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September 7th, 2021 — In OCA Blog

OCA Member Thor Hearne Wins Big in Latest Rails to Trails Case

Thor HearneThe 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.

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September 7th, 2021 — In OCA Blog

Happy 30th Birthday to the Institute For Justice!

Dana BerlinerThe 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.

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July 26th, 2021 — In OCA Blog

OCA’s Maryland Member Joseph Suntum Fights for Property Owner in Baltimore Redeveloment Project

Joseph SuntumA 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.

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July 8th, 2021 — In OCA Blog

Pennsylvania Property Owner Prevents Powerlines Across Property

Mike FahertyWhen 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.


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June 29th, 2021 — In OCA Blog

Can States Build Border Walls?

Texas Gov. Greg AbbottTexas 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.





















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June 24th, 2021 — In News & Events

Pacific Legal Foundation Wins Big in Property Owner Taking Case

Cedar Point NurseryThe 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.

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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.

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