News & Events
March 5th, 2019 — In News & Events
Mark F. (Thor) Hearne, II Joins Owners’ Counsel of America as District of Columbia Member
OCA is pleased to announce the selection of Mark F. (Thor) Hearne, II as the Primary OCA Representative for the District of Columbia. Thor Hearne is a partner in the Washington D.C. office of Larson O’Brien LLP. Mr. Hearne has earned a national reputation for his work in complex federal and state litigation, appeals, and class actions, especially matters involving election issues; property rights; and constitutional law. In the specific area of property rights, Mr. Hearne served as lead counsel in the representation of more than a thousand landowners in sixteen states in takings claims arising from the enactment of Section 8(d) of the Trails Act. This representation led to the seminal case of Brandt v. United States, 134 S.Ct. 1257 (2014), a decision which set a major precedent with regard to Trails Act litigation involving the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875. In 2014, the National Law Journal named Mr. Hearne one of Fifty Litigation Trailblazers and Pioneers in the country. In 2013, the National Law Journal recognized Mr. Hearne as a pre-eminent national trial and appellate attorney for his work in class-action eminent domain litigation. Mr. Hearne is also one of the nation’s preeminent political and election law attorneys. He served as President George W. Bush’s national election counsel in 2004, and as then-candidate George W. Bush’s lead counsel in Missouri in 2000 when he won the landmark case Bush-Cheney v. Baker. He was an advisor to the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election reform and has testified on election law matters before the U.S. Senate, the U.S. […]
March 1st, 2019 — In News & Events
OCA Member Dwight Merriam: Emergency Declaration Could Blow up President Trump’s wall
The idiom “hoist with his own petard” is sometimes misconstrued to mean hoisted up. Not so. A petard was a medieval explosive device. To be hoisted with one’s own petard is to be blown up with your own bomb. President Trump is doing precisely that with an emergency declaration to build his wall due to the legal and practical impossibility of acquiring the property rights necessary to build a wall along the Southern border. The history on this issue began in 2006 when President George W. Bush initiated a border fence project. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 authorized and partially funded 700 miles of border fence. When he signed the bill into law, President Bush said, “This bill will help protect the American people. This bill will make our borders more secure. It is an important step toward immigration reform.” Acquiring more than 1,000 separate properties in 2006 through voluntary negotiation and the draconian power of eminent domain proved difficult. There were 334 eminent domain cases filed in South Texas, and 60 to 70 cases are still being fought in court a dozen years later. Aside from the practical impossibility of assembling all the property for Trump’s wall and the hundreds or thousands of expensive lawsuits over compensation that would take decades to resolve, the real cost of such an effort is in social justice and equity. The Texas Civil Rights Project has stepped up to protect the rights of individuals with few resources and little practical experience in defending […]
February 22nd, 2019 — In News & Events
St. Bernard Parish Must Pay Over $18,000,000 More in Compensation for Violet Dock Port Property
OCA Member Randall Smith’s eight year battle with St. Bernard Parish Port Authority over the taking of his client’s property may be ending soon as a result of the Louisiana Supreme Court’s recent decision to leave in place an appellate court’s ruling that the parish needs to pay an additional $18 million in just compensation and interest. The high court’s 5-2 ruling in effect wraps up an intricate legal battle that begin when the parish sought to condemn Violet Dock Port’s property in order to hand it over to a private competitor—on the premise that the competitor could operate the dock better and charge more favorable rates. A Louisiana appellate court upheld the condemnation as a valid “public use” because the government said it would help the area’s economic development, similar to the arguments made in the Kelo case. “For over eight years, these local citizens have had to fight the unwanted taking of their Mississippi River property and business,” Smith said in a statement. “Any check on the widespread governmental abuse of the power of eminent domain should be applauded, and while ultimately unable to stop the taking, we are most gratified to have a final ruling finding (significant) additional compensation.” The purchase price for the property must also include significant attorneys’ fees and costs owed to Violet Dock. Smith estimates that his clients incurred over $6 million in attorneys’ fees and costs during the legal dispute which dates back to 2010.
February 22nd, 2019 — In News & Events
Congratulations Institute for Justice for Your Win in CRDA v. Birnbaum
OCA Member Dana Berliner and the Institute for Justice received a great victory for the Birnbaum familly recently in CRDA v. Birnbaum. A New Jersey appellate court ruled that the state’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) could not use eminent domain for the purpose of seizing private property in order to “bank” it for a possible future use. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s 2016 decision concluding that there cannot be a public use unless CRDA can provide “evidence-based assurances that” it will use the land for a project that “would proceed in the reasonably foreseeable future.” Since it could not do so, the case was dismissed. In the case, CRDA sought to condemn the Birnbaum’s private home even though “[a]t the time of the [trial court] decision under review, the CRDA had no specific redevelopment plans under consideration for the Project; it had not issued a request for proposals (RFP) to prospective developers, and no developer had committed to redeveloping within the Project area.” Nevertheless, CRDA claimed that “it is statutorily entitled to bank land for future public use, without any temporal limitation.”
February 10th, 2019 — In News & Events
Three New Directors Elected to Serve on OCA’s Board of Directors
Owners’ Counsel of America has elected three accomplished eminent domain attorneys to serve on its Board of Directors for 2019. They are Hertha Lund with Lund Law, PLLC in Bozeman, Montana; Casey Pipes with Helming Leach Law Firm in Mobile, Alabama; and Joseph Suntum with Miller, Miller & Canby in Rockville, Maryland. Hertha Lund represents landowners in matters involving eminent domain, property rights, water rights, and wind energy development across the State of Montana. Hertha has argued numerous cases before the Ninth Circuit and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, various Federal Circuit Courts, and the District Courts in Montana. She also served as Law Clerk to Chief Judge Loren A. Smith at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. While in law school, Hertha served as Co-Editor-In-Chief of the Montana Law Review. And at Montana State University, she studied Animal Science, Range Management, and Pre-Veterinary Medicine. She has served on non-profit boards and is actively involved in the leadership of her church. Casey Pipes is both the managing shareholder of his law firm and an active practicing attorney, representing landowners in condemnation actions throughout Alabama in both federal and state courts. Casey is also a member of The Counselors of Real Estate®, an international organization of real estate professionals recognized as the leading advisors in complex real property matters. Casey previously served as Chair of several American Bar Association Committees and is also a frequent speaker at national and state-wide educational seminars on the subject of eminent domain and real property litigation. On the national level, he has presented papers at several of the […]
January 31st, 2019 — In News & Events
OCA Emeritus Member John Hamilton Convinces Kansas Supreme Court That A Tenant Is Entitled to Relocation Benefits Even If the Displacing Project Does Not Require The Filing of An Eminent Domain Action
John Hamilton, Owners’ Counsel of America Emeritus Member from the State of Kansas, recently prevailed in the case of Nauheim v. City of Topeka, No. 114271 (Jan. 25, 2019) in convincing the Kansas Supreme Court that a tenant who was displaced when the City of Topeka sought to acquire private property for a drainage project was entitled to relocation benefits even though the City did not have to actually file condemnation proceedings to acquire the property. In a ruling that could have far reaching impacts, the Kansas Supreme Court held that K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 26-518 indentifies two distinct situations requiring the a condemnor to pay relocation benefits to a displaced person, even in the absence of federal funding, i.e. (a) when the acquisition occurs through negotiation in advance of a condemnation action, or (b) when the acquisition occurs through a condemnation action. Thus, when the commerical tenant was displaced based on the mere threat of condemnation, it was nonetheless entitled to receive relocation benefits. The court also ruled that whether a negotiation was in advance of a condemnation action under the relevant statute is a question of fact to be established by a preponderance of the evidence.
September 7th, 2018 — In News & Events
In Memoriam to Dixon Montague
OCA mourns the recent passing of one of its most beloved and admired members, Dixon Montague. Dixon’s professional achievements are plentiful and lengthy. After graduating from Tulane University and the University of Mississippi (J.D. 1977), he joined Vinson and Elkins in Houston Texas. There he spent over 30 years representing clients in eminent domain, inverse condemnation, and regulatory takings cases against local, state, and federal authorities in federal and state courts. Dixon was recognized as a Texas Super Lawyer annually since 2005 and listed in the Best Lawyers in America annually since 2008. He was honored as a Best Lawyer of the Year for Eminent Domain and Condemnation Law in 2012 and 2015. Dixon also served as a member of the Board of the Pacific Legal Foundation during a time when it experienced some of its most important victories for property rights, including the famous Koontz case. “All of us at PLF who knew Dixon will miss his passion and wisdom, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family,” says Jim Burling, OCA member and Vice President of Litigation for PLF. In 2017 Dixon was awarded the prestigious Crystal Eagle Award by Owners’ Counsel of America for his zealous advocacy and creativity in pursuit of the truth and the constitutional promise of just and adequate compensation. Dixon was one of a kind. We will miss him terribly.
July 16th, 2018 — In Articles
Owners’ Counsel of America and Many Others Call on U.S. Supreme Court to Overturn Unconstitutional and Pre-Textual Taking of Private Port Business Property.
In Violet Dock Port, Inc. v. St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal Dist., Owners’ Counsel of America joins with the Institute for Justice, the Rutherford Institute, the National Federation of Independent Business, Southeastern Legal Foundation, the Atlantic Legal Foundation, and the Cato Institute in filing Amicus Briefs asking the United States Supreme Court to review and reverse a lower court ruling that allowed the state of Louisiana to use its eminent domain powers to lay claim to property owned by one private port business so that it could be operated by a different private business. Relying on Kelo v. City of New London, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that it was entirely proper to take a fully-functioning private facility with the intent to lease it to another private entity to operate, with the revenues earned from those operations to be shared by both the local government entity and its favored private actor. “Both the United States and Louisiana constitutions prohibit the taking of a privately owned, ongoing business for government operation, or for operation by another favored private entity,” Violet Dock Port attorney and OCA Member Randy Smith states. “This case tests the limits of government takings powers.”
April 19th, 2018 — In News & Events
Congratulations to OCA Emeritus Member James Thompson
James L. Thompson, a partner with Miller, Miller & Canby and OCA Member Emeritus has been selected as Senior Lawyer of the Year by the Maryland State Bar Association Senior Lawyer Section. Thompson’s career has spanned more than 45 years, during which he has served clients and the legal community. He concentrates his practice in eminent domain and real estate valuation litigation, as well as civil litigation involving complex real estate and commercial disputes. He has led the litigation practice group at Miller, Miller & Canby for more than 25 years. In addition to his legal work, Mr. Thompson has served the legal community at large by his participation with the county, state and national bar associations. He served as President of the Montgomery County Bar Association, President of the Maryland State Bar Association and was active in the American Bar Association with service in the House of Delegates. He currently serves on the Committee on Public Trust & Confidence, appointed by the Maryland Court of Appeals. For his record of excellence and commitment to his profession he received the Daily Record’s Leadership in Law Award, the Montgomery County Bar Association’s Century of Service Award and the Federal Bar Association’s Peter D. Dirito Endowment Award, bestowed annually to recognize public service in the enhancement of the legal profession and the advancement of justice. He is a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, has been a named Super Lawyer for the state of Maryland every year since 2007. He was […]
February 13th, 2018 — In News & Events
Owners’ Counsel of America Elects Joshua E. Baker as Virginia Representative
Owners’ Counsel of American (OCA) is pleased to announce the selection of Joshua E. Baker of the firm of Waldo & Lyle as the Primary OCA Representative for the State of Virginia. After an extended vetting process, Owners’ Counsel of America limits its membership to but one eminent domain attorney from each of the 50 states. The Virginia seat was previously occupied by Joseph T. Waldo who has been elected to Emeritus Status. Baker, who has been practicing for 12 years, is well-known throughout Virginia, not only for his representation of private property owners, but also as a grassroots advocate for property rights reforms. In addition to his robust eminent domain practice, Baker is called every year to testify at hearings on private property rights issues before the Virginia General Assembly or to assist in the drafting of eminent domain legislation. His expertise and reputation have helped defeat measures that would limit owners’ rights in condemnation cases, and pass reforms strengthening them. Baker also played a leadership role in the drafting and advocacy of Virginia’s 2012 enactment of a constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of eminent domain for economic development. Like many OCA members, Baker limits his practice exclusively to the representation of private property owners facing the loss of or damage to their property through condemnation, inverse condemnation and regulatory takings. In 2017, Baker resolved over 40 different property rights disputes with just compensation payments ranging from several thousand dollars to several hundred thousands of dollars.