News & Events
November 17th, 2021 — In News & Events
OCA Affilate Member Jonathan Houghton Takes Position with Pacific Legal Foundation
OCA Affiliate Member Jonathan Houghton recently announced that he will be leaving the law firm of Goldstein, Rikon, Rikon and Houghton, where he has practiced on behalf of property owners for many years in the areas of eminent domain, inverse condemnation and regulatory takings to work within the Property Rights Group of the Pacific Legal Foundation. In leaving a law firm that has mean a lot to him, Jon said, “I want to take this opportunity to share my extraordinary appreciation for Mike Rikon. He brought me in all those years ago and his firm has been a home. All of the skills and knowledge that I am taking to PLF came from my time there and I am leaving with a heavy debt of gratitude.” We wish Jon well in his new position and know that he will continue to represent property owners with the same dedication and committment he has always demonstrated.
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 email@example.com or by phone at 303-806-5155.
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.
April 5th, 2021 — In News & Events
Divided Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Highway’s Jurisdictional Offer in Controversial Case
We are disappointed in the recent decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court upholding a pre-condemnation jurisdictional offer made by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) to a property owner that deviated substantially from the Department’s own appraisal which, under Wisconsin law, is required to form the basis of the offer. As three Supreme Court Justices (including the Chief Justice) correctly pointed out in their strong dissent, the jurisdictional offer was not based upon the appraisal that DOT had provided the owner, but rather on DOT’s own internal administrative review. An important factor in the case was the difference between DOT’s appraisal of $133,400 and the jurisdictional offer of $403,200, resulting in a 202% increase in value. OCA filed an Amicus Brief in this important case which can be viewed here.
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.
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.