April 5th, 2021 — In OCA Blog
ALI-CLE Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation Conference Now Scheduled for 2022
Mark your calendars for the next ALI-CLE Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation Conference to be held in Scottsdale, Arizona at the Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch. The conference dates are January 27-29, 2022. Exploring a full range of cutting-edge issues and drawing professionals from across the country, this annual conference is always “the place to be” for all eminent domain and land use practitioners looking to learn from recognized and experienced professionals representing the diverse stakeholders in these cases.
April 4th, 2021 — In News & Events
North Dakota Court Rules in Property Owner’s Favor in Pre-Condemnation Entry Claim by Condemnor
In the recent case entitled Cass County Joint Water Resource District, v. Cash H. Aaland, Larry W. Bakko and Penny Cirks, the North Dakota Supreme Court rules in the property owners favor on the issue of whether a Water District had the authority to enter upon the owner’s property prior to filing a condemnation case, as part of a flood diversion project. In this unique factual situation, the Water District had previously been granted access to the owner’s property for sixteen and one-half months under a North Dakota right-of-entry statute to conduct examinations, surveys and mapping. However, after its initial right-of-entry had expired, it sought to extend the right by negotiating with the property owner for easements to install permanent survey monuments in order to conduct geomorphic examinations. When those negotiations failed, instead of seeking to condemn the easements, it sought an extension of its previous occupancy of owner’s property, using the same right-of-entry statute, for an additional nineteen months, bringing the total occupancy period to thirty-five and one-half months. In ruling that the right-of-entry statute did not authorize such an expanded and more invasive use of owner’s property, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision allowing the entry to occur. The case is helpful in terms of its discussion of other state cases addressing pre-condemnation right-of-entry issues.
March 23rd, 2021 — In News & Events
Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid Oral Argument
The Supreme Court is currently entertaining an interesting property rights case entitled Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid. Cedar Point Nursery together with Fowler Packing Company are California fruit growers that employ around 3,000 Californians. In 2015, the United Farm Workers (UFW) sent union organizers to Cedar Point’s workplace during harvest time to encourage them to unionize. Under California’s Union Access Regulation the organizers are granted an easement that allows them to enter a business’s private property three hours a day. The businesses are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate this regulation and affirm that government can’t allow unions on private property without paying compensation for a property taking. Cedar Point is being represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation. For more information about the case and the arguments being made check out OCA Member Robert Thomas’ Inverse Condemnation Blog.
March 3rd, 2021 — In OCA Blog
OCA Member Michael Rikon Inducted into IAOTP’s Hall of Fame
Michael Rikon, OCA’s New York Member and a Partner of Goldstein, Rikon, Rikon & Houghton, P.C., was recently inducted into the exclusive Hall of Fame for 2021 by the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP). These special honorees are distinguished based on longevity in their fields of practice, as well as their overall contributions to society. Mr. Rikon is being recognized for this honor based on over 50 years in the legal industry. Mr. Rikon was previously honored at IAOTP’s 2019 Annual Award Gala as Top Attorney of the Year and will again be honored at IAOTP’s 2021 Annual Award Gala at the end of this year. To view Mr. Rikon’s OCA bio and profile, click here. We congratulate Michael on this wonderful honor and deserving recognition.
February 24th, 2021 — In News & Events
U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Take Up Important Land Use and Takings Case out of Hawaii
A few days ago the U.S. Supreme Court in this order declined to issue a writ of certiorari to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Bridge Aina Lea, LLC v. Hawaii Land Use Comm’n, No. 20-54, a case in which a federal court jury concluded the property owner suffered both a Lucas and Penn Central taking, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, concluding that no reasonable jury could have found a taking. This is a missed opportunity for our highest court to provide much needed guidance in an area of the law that desperately needs clarity. One positive outcome from the court’s dodge is the dissenting opinion from Justice Thomas, in which he writes that “it would be desirable for us to take a fresh look at our regulatory takings jurisprudence, to see whether it can be grounded in the original public meaning of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment or the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Murr v. Wisconsin, 582 U.S. ___, ___ (2017) (dissenting opinion) (slip op., at 1). For a fuller discussion of the case, court and dissenting opinion, please read OCA Member Robert Thomas’ Inverse Condemnation Blog.
February 20th, 2021 — In News & Events
Destruction of Home During Police Enforcement Operations Not a Compensable Taking
Many people would assume that if a police department or swat team completely destroyed someone’s private residence during an operation to apprehend a fleeing suspect, particularly when that suspect did not have an ownership interest in the residence, the government would be responsible and liable for the destruction under the Fifth Amendment “takings clause” of the United States Constitution. But in two recent court decisions, one from Colorado decided in 2019 entitled Lech vs. Johnson and one from South Dakota decided on February 10, 2021 entitled Hamen v. Hamlin County, Hamen v. Hamlin County, the courts reached a different conclusion. In each, the court ruled that such exercises of the government’s police power cannot constitute a taking of private property warranting the payment to just compensation. In Colorado, the fleeing suspect (who was being chased for shoplifting at a Walmart store) had no ownership or other interest in the home he took refuge in; in other words the owners were innocent bystanders. In the South Dakota case, the police were under the impression that the suspect in a series of crimes was holed up in his parent’s mobile home. He was not and the police did not assert that his parents had any involvement in his criminal activities. For more background about each of these cases, read Robert Thomas’ Inverse Condemnation Blog discussion by clicking here.
February 17th, 2021 — In News & Events
Condemnor’s Quick Take Powers Require That Owner Receive Preliminary Compensation Offer
A recent Supreme Court decision out of Massachusetts illustrates the need to make sure a property owner receives what is deemed preliminary compensation (referred to in the opinion as the “pro tanto payment”) when a condemnor exercises its quick take powers to acquire and take control of an owner’s property before the condemnation action is completed and before the final determination of just compensation has been made. Indeed, the court rules that the preliminary payment must be extended to the property owner even if the owner is contesting the eminent domain case and seeking to have the property returned. In Abuzahra v. City of Cambridge, the City refused to make the preliminary offer of compensation (an amount of $3.7 million) available to the owner Abuzahra because of questions regarding the state of title. However, even after the title issue had been resolved and Abuzahra established he was the rightful recipient of the funds, the City continued to refuse to pay him because he was challenging the taking. To read the opinion in full click here. To understand the concept of “quick take” also called “immediate possession,” refer to OCA’s Dictionary of Key Terms.
February 17th, 2021 — In OCA Blog
Considering the Condemnation of Golf Course Land or Golf Facilities-Not So Fast
OCA’s New York member Michael Rikon writes in his Bulldozers at Your DoorStep Blog about the hazards and risks associated with a condemnor seeking to acquire a golf course or lands associated with a golf facility by eminent domain main. “Not so fast,” Mike advises. Before deciding that such actions are a good idea, the condemnor might wish to critically analyze the concept of highest and best use. To learn more about this concept and the part it plays in assessing a parcel’s development potential and resulting fair market value, read Mike’s article here. You might also wish to check out OCA’s Featured article entitled, “A Landowner’s Guide to Understanding the Concept of Highest and Best Use.”
February 9th, 2021 — In News & Events
New Jersey Eminent Domain Case Involving PennEast Pipeline Heading to U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Feb. 3rd that it would hear the appeal on an eminent domain case involving PennEast Pipeline Co.’s efforts to build a 120-mile, 36-in. natural gas pipeline across open space and public lands preserved by the State of New Jersey for recreation, conservation and agriculture purposes. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the project in January 2018. However, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2019 that PennEast could not use federal eminent domain to seize the land. The court held that condemning public lands violates the 11th Amendment which gives sovereign immunity to states, shielding them from private lawsuits.
February 5th, 2021 — In News & Events
Federal Government Drops Several Eminent Domain Claims in South Texas For the Border Wall
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has dropped its legal efforts to immediately take possession of at least three tracts of land in South Texas that had been earmarked for stretches of the border wall, citing President Joe Biden’s plan to pause construction projects. Ryan Patrick, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, said in the court filings the executive order Biden signed on his first day in office on Jan. 20 essentially made going forward with the land condemnations moot, at least for now. Efforts to quit other condemnations could be coming soon, court documents indicated. For more information about these actions read here.