News & Events
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.
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.
February 4th, 2021 — In News & Events
Couple Files Fifth Amendment Lawsuit in Boulder Colorado Over Mineral Moratorium
A couple who own mineral rights within the City of Boulder, Colorado are now suing the city over its oil and gas moratorium on the basis that it violates the Fifth Amendment’s rule against taking private property without just compensation. The couple, John and Valorie Wells, are being represented by the Public Trust Institute. The moratorium originates from an ordinance enacted in June 2013 that prohibits the city manager and staff from accepting or processing any application for oil and gas exploration permits on open space properties. For more information about this case, read this article recently published in Boulder’s Daily Camera.
January 2nd, 2021 — In News & Events
Register Now for the ALI-CLE Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation Conference
Registration is now open for the biggest and best eminent domain and land valuation conference that has taken place annually for nearly 40 years. Given the pandemic it will be held virtually for the first time on January 28th and 29th. For more information about this event and to register click here.