Pittsburgh Fifth & Forbes Condemnation

Pittsburgh Fifth and Forbes
IJ Beats Back Eminent Domain Abuse in Pittsburgh with Public Affairs Campaign

George Harris is one of the property owners who's land was to be taken if the mayor of Pittsburgh decided to invoke eminent domain for a private developer to build a shopping mall.

Hallmarks of the Institute for Justice’s defense of its clients’ constitutional rights include thinking creatively and trying new tactics. Never was this more apparent than in our fight to save 60 buildings and more than 120 small businesses in downtown Pittsburgh from Mayor Tom Murphy’s plan to take the properties through eminent domain so he could hand the land over to a Chicago developer to construct a private mall.

In June 2000, IJ took its public interest tactics to new heights—literally—posting 10 billboards (each measuring 12 feet high by 25 feet wide) calling the public’s attention to the City of Pittsburgh’s plan to abuse eminent domain. Six different messages appeared in the ads, including one that was located only blocks from Mayor Murphy’s office. That billboard read, “Murphy’s Law: Take from Pittsburgh Families. Give to a Chicago Developer.”

As a result of this campaign and the threat of litigation by the Institute for Justice, Mayor Murphy was forced to once and for all take eminent domain off the table as a threat against property owners in the threatened Fifth and Forbes neighborhood.

In 2001, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America awarded the Institute for Justice a silver medal in recognition of its effective media plan and billboard campaign.

Essential Background


Background - none available

Client Photo

Media Advisory: Institute for Justice Hosts News Conference On Eminent Domain Abuse In Pittsburgh’s Fifth & Forbes Neighborhood (March 7, 2002)

Client Video - none available


Legal Briefs and Decisions

Release: Victory for Property Owners: Pittsburgh Mayor Publicly Retracts Eminent Domain Threat (November 27, 2000)

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Case Timeline

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Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Billboards, Media Conference Spotlight Pittsburgh's Eminent Domain Controversy (June 20, 2000)

MAP: State Supreme Court Rulings On Eminent Domain for Private Development

Download Pittsburgh Billboards

IJ’s first-ever nationwide census of eminent domain abuse:  Public Power, Private Gain






Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: IJ’s Work Shows It Is Time To Respect Private Property Rights; Liberty & Law (January 2001)

Article: Taking Public Interest Law to New Heights; Liberty & Law (September 2000)

Article: Civic Alarm Clocks (June 23, 2000)

Article: Group Takes Protest to the Streets (June 23, 2000) 

Article: Billboard blast eminent domain-D.C. watchdog group criticizes Murphy, offers legal support (June 21, 2000)

Article: We Are Here for You: IJ Pledges to Defend Pittsburgh Businesses Against Eminent Domain Abuse; Liberty & Law (April 2000)



Article: ‘ land grabs’ - Violating the Constitution for ‘political experdiency’ must stop (March 19, 2000)



Article: Eminent domain: a city’s shame (March 17, 2000)

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