The 5th Circuit ruled that it was premature to review the Louisiana Real Estate Appraisers Board allegation that a Federal Trade Commission action cut into competition.  The FTC alleged in its 2017 complaint that the Board interfered with the free market and restrained price competition by limiting the ways appraisal management companies could calculate an appraiser’s pay.

Attorneys for the Pimlico Race Course owners say the city of Baltimore is trying to gain control of the racetrack and the signature Preakness Stakes race through eminent domain.  The Stronach Group attorneys sent a letter saying the City filed a lawsuit that is a “transparent ploy to gain some sort of negotiating leverage over the owners of the Maryland Jockey Club and the Preakness Stakes.” Proposed legislation would make state funds available for The Stronach Group to revamp another site, possibly moving the race.

A Connecticut legislative committee approved a bill to restrict public taking of private land for economic development purposes. The bill would prohibit state and municipal redevelopment agencies from using eminent domain to take property to be used as part of a private development project.

According to press accounts, there are a number of potential issues that may work against pas-sage of the bill. “I’m not certain that this will continue forward past today,” said Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield, co-chairwoman of the committee. “There are some valid legal concerns. We do need to make sure we’re properly balancing our need to provide economic de-velopment” against personal property rights. For example, Rep. Steven Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, who opposed the bill, asked what happens when an abandoned factory or blighted property lies undeveloped. “This (bill) totally eliminates economic development as a tool to redevelop our ur-ban areas,” he said.

TX State Senator Lois W. Kolkhorst joined several statewide advocates for property rights to announce the filing of Senate Bill 421 which seeks to strengthen Texas property rights. If passed, Kolkhorst said the legislation would create a substantially more fair, equitable and transparent eminent domain process.

“Since the days of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, Texans have valued on our freedom to own private property,” said Kolkhorst. “To continue that proud tradition, I have filed SB 421 to see that the eminent domain process used by private entities is fair, transparent and that those entities are held accountable when they take private land.”

According to Kolkhorst, Senate Bill 421 features several statutory changes, including: mandating a public meeting to ensure property owners understand the process and can have their question answered, stipulating minimum protections that must be present in the contract, as well as holding condemners accountable if they offer property owners less compensation than they are owed.

 

The US Supreme Court reheard oral arguments on whether a property owner can have a federal court decide an inverse condemnation case without first exhausting state remedies. In Knick v. Twp. of Scott, the property owner alleged that the enactment of a law constituted an inverse condemnation. SCOTUS first heard argument on the case on October 3, 2018 before Justice Kavanaugh’ confirmation. After his confirmation, the Court ordered a second round of oral argument. The property owner, represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, seeks to overturn the Supreme Court Case Williamson County v. Hamilton Bank which held that federal courts may only hear inverse condemnation cases after a state court has decided the issue.

I recently had a trial regarding a partial taking of a trucks stop located outside of Harrisburg, PA. The Condemnor/Township claimed the damages were $0. We argued that the damages were $1.75M. After a four day trial, a Dauphin County jury awarded the full $1.75M. As a result, our client will also receive another $750,000 in other damages.  We are thrilled for our client.

I tried a case in Bucks County, PA involving a condemnation by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.  PennDOT claim the property was worth $850,000. We presented evidence that the property was worth $2,300,000.  The Jury returned a verdict of $2,300,000 – the full amount we alleged.

Unfortunately, the Turnpike chose to appeal the verdict to the Commonwealth Court. The Court affirmed that verdict. The RDA filed a petition asking the PA Supreme Court to hear it’s appealed. The Court denied that petition.

So, the matter is now formally over and our judgment is final.

Rep. Chris Quinn (R-Delaware) recently introduced a bill in the PA House that would require the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General to create a brief document to clearly outline the rights and responsibilities property owners have during any land acquisition negotiations where eminent domain is being used.  House Bill 2609, titled Landowner Bill of Rights, is aimed at allowing property owners to better understand their rights during eminent domain negotiations.  Some condemning agencies, such as state departments of transportation (including PennDOT), already have such documents.

I tried a case in York County, PA involving a condemnation of the former York County Prison by the City of York RDA. The RDA claimed it was worth about $65,000. We presented evidence that the property was worth $1,250,000.

After less than ½ hour, the Jury returned a verdict of $1,250,000 – the full amount we alleged.

Unfortunately, the RDA chose to appeal the verdict to the Commonwealth Court. The Court affirmed that verdict. The RDA filed a petition asking the PA Supreme Court to hear it’s appealed. The Court denied that petition.

So, the matter is now formally over and our judgment is final.

A group of Cook County property owners have filed suit in Illinois federal court alleging that they are owed more than $27 million in property tax refunds due to discriminatory assessments by the County’s Treasurer and Assessor. These property owners claim they paid taxes at significantly higher levels than other taxpayers in the same class. The complaint alleges from 2000 through 2008, assessed valuations of single-family residential, commercial and industrial properties were not made by the assessor at percentages of market value required under the state Property Tax Code and the Illinois Constitution. As a result, the complaint says, the group collectively overpaid property taxes by more than $27.8 million on six properties.

The property owners also accuse the county assessor of destroying approximately 90 percent of electronic records of his assessments of single-family residential properties and records of his internal appeals process for all classes of property for tax years 2000 to 2006 and part of 2007. The owners allege the destruction of those records violated the law on preservation of public records.

The case is A.F. Moore & Associates Inc. et al. v. Pappas et al., case number 1:18-cv-04888, in the United States District Court for the Northern District Of Illinois.