Eminent Domain: Needed or Trampling of Rights?

09.15.2005 | Law, Campus and CommunityLawyers for both sides of what could be the nation's next prominent eminent domain battle will speak from 5-7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, at the University of Dayton School of Law's Mathias H. Heck Courtroom.

Their appearances come two days before the Ohio Supreme Court takes its next step in deciding Norwood, Ohio v. Horney. Rookwood Partners and the city of Norwood are trying to acquire three privately owned houses — from owners who do not want to sell — for an office-retail-condo development in the Cincinnati suburb.

The Institute for Justice's Robert Gall, who represents the owners of the houses in the Norwood case, joins city of Norwood special counsel Tim Burke, Rookwood Partners' attorney Richard Tranter and University of Cincinnati College of Law Dean Emeritus Joseph Tomain for "The Use of Eminent Domain for Economic Redevelopment." UD property law professor Jim Durham will moderate the program.

The Institute for Justice also represented the New London, Conn., property owners who lost Kelo v. New London, a similar, much-publicized U.S. Supreme Court case last June.

The program is free and open to the public. There is a $25 registration fee for lawyers wanting Continuing Legal Education credit. The deadline to register for CLE credit is Sept. 22. Call (937) 229-3793 to register.

Panelists will discuss the national implications of the New London case from 5 to 6 p.m. They will discuss the Norwood case from 6:15 to 7:30 p.m.

"The fundamental issue is what the government can or cannot do. This forum is for anyone concerned about the appropriateness of government power," said Durham, who was quoted by The Associated Press during Kelo v. New London in June. "While individuals look at this issue as one where the government is given too many rights, unfortunately, most don't worry until it happens to them."

Durham said there has been mostly rhetoric from the property rights movement and legislators about eminent domain since the U.S. Supreme Court decision. Parties involved in ongoing cases are waiting to see how states will legislate eminent domain.

"The U.S. Constitution is a floor," Durham said. "State constitutions cannot give less protection than the U.S. Constitution. The message the U.S. Supreme Court sent in the Kelo case is that it is up to the states to decide the extent to which eminent domain may be used to acquire privately owned property and turn it over to private developers."

Durham said cases in Ohio are particularly interesting because its constitution says land can be taken for public "welfare." The U.S. version says "public use."

"It gives a city greater leeway," Durham said. "A private development may not be used by the public, but it could benefit the public welfare by eliminating blight and increasing tax revenue."

For more information or media interviews, contact Shawn Robinson at (937) 229-3391 or Jim Durham at (937) 229-3228.