Owners’ Counsel of America Files Amicus Brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Support of Property Owner in Eminent Domain Case

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Owners’ Counsel of America has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the petitioner in an eminent domain case from New York urging the United States Supreme Court to grant review.

Owners’ Counsel of America has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the property owners in River Center LLC v. Dormitory Auth. of the State of New York (11-922) urging the United States Supreme Court to grant review and correct the eminent domain decision by the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court.

The case involves one of the largest condemnations of private property in the history of New York City – the taking of the unused development rights of an entire city block located in the area of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. At issue are important questions about the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment which limits the government’s power of eminent domain by requiring that "just compensation" be paid to an owner if private property is taken for public use.

The petitioner in River Center filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari seeking review of the New York courts, which denied the landowner and developer the right to present evidence concerning the value of land taken by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. The petitioner had the intention of developing the property into a multi-use commercial, retail, and residential complex. Its plans and ability to do so, however, were severely restricted by the Dormitory Authority’s strategic interference over 19 months to deny the re-zoning of the property and delay construction. When the property was eventually condemned by the Dormitory Authority in 2001, the intended development had not yet broken ground.

Robert H. Thomas of Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert in Honolulu, and the Hawaii member of Owner’s Counsel of America, prepared and filed the brief. “This is a very important case,” he said. “As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in the infamous Kelo case, the public’s attention in eminent domain has been on the power of the government to take property for redevelopment and other uses that are not clearly “public.” But the question of how compensation is determined once property is taken is also critical, and the Supreme Court should focus its attention on this case.”

The New York courts concluded that an owner whose property is taken by eminent domain must have specific plans that will "come to fruition" in the immediate future. The Owners’ Counsel of America brief argues that all evidence of value must be considered by a reviewing court, and it cannot disregard evidence that a potential buyer of the property would consider important in assessing value.

The New York court also rejected evidence that the Dormitory Authority depressed the value of the property in anticipation of the condemnation. Thomas said, “a court disregarding those facts is outrageous.” He also noted that “Manhattan is the most expensive real estate market in the nation and what happens here has wide impact, so this case takes on an added importance.”

The brief also argues that the Fifth Amendment protects the right of both a property owner and developer to testify about the property’s value. Owners’ Counsel implores the Court’s review of this case to emphasize the constraints that the Just Compensation Clause places on the eminent domain power and to safeguard the rights of private property owners.


The Owners’ Counsel of America, http://www.ownerscounsel.com, is a nationwide network of the country’s most experienced eminent domain attorneys dedicated to protecting the rights of private property owners large and small, locally and nationally, and to furthering the cause of property rights. The lawyers affiliated with Owners’ Counsel are in private practice in nearly every state and represent landowners against federal, state, and local governments, utilities, redevelopment authorities and other entities that may possess the power of eminent domain.


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Catherine Newman
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