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Ohio Supreme Court rules AGAINST Eminent Domain!

There's hope after all!!

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Eminent domain abused
Ohio Supreme Court overrules Norwood home-taking


The city of Norwood cannot take property by eminent domain to give to a private developer, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today.

In holding parts of Ohio’s eminent domain law unconstitutional, the state’s highest court set a different course than the U.S. Supreme Court did in its landmark Kelo v. New London decision last year.

There, the Supreme Court ruled that a Connecticut city’s taking of property for economic development was constitutional – but made clear that state constitutions could set different standards for property rights.

The Norwood case is expected to be closely watched around the country. It was the first major eminent domain case to reach a state Supreme Court since Kelo.

The case was brought by property owners Joseph Horney, Carl and Joy Gamble and Matthew F. Burton, who argued that the city should not be able to take their properties and deed them over to Rookwood Partners for a $125 million shopping and office complex.

“It’s a complete vindication of the rights of the Gambles and Joe Horney and the Burtons, and the rights of every home and business owner in the state of Ohio,” said Dana Berliner, an attorney for the Washington-based Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm that represented the Norwood property owners.

Those were the three “holdouts” who, unlike the dozens of other property owners who sold their houses to the developer for two or three times its appraisal value, refused to sell and took the case to the Supreme Court.

The decision was a blow to the city of Norwood, which had counted on $2 million a year in additional tax revenue to help balance its budget.

City officials declined to comment this morning until a press conference at Norwood City Hall.

Richard Tranter, a lawyer for Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate, declined to say what the developer’s next step would be.

“This is a sad day for Norwood and other Ohio cities desperately trying to revitalize their communities. I wonder if the 66 former home owners would agree with the court’s comparison of their neighborhood to Beacon Hill in Boston and Knob Hill in San Francisco.”

He declined further comment.

While the Supreme Court gave the property owners a clear legal victory, the practical consequences of the decision could leave lower courts in a quandary.
The houses of the three plaintiffs in the case – Joseph Horney, Carl and Joy Gamble and Matthew F. Burton – are still standing, under a Supreme Court injunction blocking their demolition.

They’re the only homes left in what used to be a neighborhood of 70-some middle-class homes off Interstate 71.

They’ve been fenced off, salvaged for parts and neglected for more than a year. They’re owned by Rookwood Partners, which has paid for the properties and paid taxes on them for a year.

Still, Joy and Carl Gamble – who recently moved out of their daughter’s house and into an Independence, Ky. apartment – say they plan to move back to the old neighborhood.

“At last, at long last,” Joy Gamble said. “The Ohio Supreme Court has just made this a constitutional republic, the way it should be.”

Other property rights groups also applauded the ruling.

A lawyer for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation called it “a home run for homeowners.”

Berliner said the case has “enormous precedential value.” Most state supreme courts – just like Ohio’s – had not considered these issues in decades.

The last major decision in Ohio, in Bruestle v. Rich, came in a 1953 Cincinnati case that found the city could use eminent domain to clear blighted slums in the West End.

But there’s a difference between “blighted” and “deteriorating,” which the court called “a standardless standard.”

“The evidence is a morass of conflicting opinions on the condition of the neighborhood. Though the Norwood code’s definition of ‘deteriorating area’ provides a litany of conditions, it offers so little guidance in application that it is almost barren of any practical meaning,” Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote for the unanimous court.

Although “economic factors may be considered” in an eminent domain case, economic considerations alone cannot justify a taking, the court ruled.

The court also found fault with the appeal provisions of the eminent domain law – prohibiting property owners from appealing the government’s right to take until after a jury determines the compensation. That denies the property owners their right to due process, the court said.

The decision comes just days before a special legislative task force is scheduled to make recommend sweeping changes in eminent domain law to the Ohio General Assembly.

The court put the legislature on notice that future eminent domain laws would be given strict scrutiny by the courts.

The opinion concluded: “Although the judiciary and the legislature define the limits of state powers, such as eminent domain, the ultimate guardians of the people’s rights, as evidenced by the appellants in these cases, are the people themselves. Judgments reversed.”

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Jul/26/2006, 8:50 pm Link to this post  
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Re: Ohio Supreme Court rules AGAINST Eminent Domain!

“a standardless standard.”

Boy.. does that statement cover a lot of area.. or not?
Jul/26/2006, 11:22 pm Link to this post  

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