Dana Berliner


Director of Litigation

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Dana Berliner serves as Litigation Director at the Institute for Justice, where she has worked as a lawyer since 1994.

The focus of Dana’s litigation at IJ has been property rights. She successfully represented the Community Youth Athletic Center, a boxing gym and mentoring program for at-risk youth, which challenged the city of National City’s authorization of taking the CYAC’s property for private development; the California Court of Appeal ruled in 2013 that the authorization of eminent domain was invalid and that National City had violated California’s Public Records Act. Dana also represented the home and business owners in Norwood, Ohio, who, on July 26, 2006, secured a unanimous ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court that the city could not take their property for a privately owned shopping mall and “lifestyle center.”  Along with co-counsel Scott Bullock, she represented the homeowners in Kelo v. New London, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that cities could condemn property because other uses may produce an increase in tax dollars and jobs. Dana, along with many others at IJ, worked to turn the nationwide outrage caused by the decision into new state statutes, constitutions and judicial decisions that cut back on eminent domain abuse. She secured a ruling that the Village of Port Chester, N.Y., violated due process in its use of eminent domain to secure waterfront property. Since 2008, Dana has been recognized every year as a “Best Lawyer” in eminent domain and condemnation law by the publication Best Lawyers in America.

On issues of free speech and economic liberty, Dana successfully defended Carla Main and Encounter Books, who wrote and published a book about eminent domain abuse in Texas and across the country, against a defamation suit brought by a developer who stood to receive property taken by eminent domain.  She secured a victory in favor of two New Orleans entrepreneurs in a federal First Amendment challenge to the city of New Orleans’ ban on sidewalk book vending. As trial counsel, Dana also secured a ruling that the Nevada Transportation Services Authority violated the rights of several would-be limousine entrepreneurs by subjecting them to an onerous and arbitrary licensing process that gave undue power to existing companies opposing competition. And she successfully represented an aspiring teacher of African hair braiding in Mississippi, as well as two of her students, challenging restrictions on learning and teaching African hair braiding in Mississippi.

In 2012, Dana became IJ’s Litigation Director. She now oversees all of IJ’s litigation, helping other attorneys craft both their major legal theories and their day-to-day litigation strategies. And she helps to set the litigation directions that IJ will take.

Dana authored Opening the Floodgates:  Eminent Domain Abuse in the Post-Kelo World, a report on the use and threatened use of eminent domain for private development in the year since the Kelo decision.  Dana also authored Public Power, Private Gain: A Five-Year, State-by-State Report Examining the Abuse of Eminent Domain, the first-ever nationwide study on the abuse of eminent domain, released in 2003.

Dana has been quoted in The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, NPR and The Washington Post as well as on various radio and television broadcasts, including 60 Minutes.

Dana received her law and undergraduate degrees from Yale University where she was a member of the Yale Law Journal and represented clients through the legal services program. After law school, she clerked for Judge Jerry Smith on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Dana Berliner is a member of the DC and Pennsylvania bars.

Current Cases

In the News

Research and Reports

  • October 1, 2009    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Building Empires, Destroying Homes

    Eminent Domain Abuse in New York

    New York is perhaps the worst state in the nation when it comes to eminent domain abuse. Government jurisdictions and agencies statewide have condemned or threatened to condemn homes and small businesses for the New York Stock Exchange, The New York Times, IKEA and Costco.

  • August 1, 2007    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    50 State Report Card

    Tracking Eminent Domain Reform Legislation Since Kelo

    Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s now-infamous decision in Kelo v. New London, 44 states have passed new laws aimed at curbing the abuse of eminent domain for private use.

  • June 1, 2006    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Opening the Floodgates

    Eminent Domain Abuse in a Post-Kelo World

    One year after the U.S. Supreme Court case, Kelo v. New London, local governments threatened eminent domain or condemned at least 5,783 homes, businesses, churches and other properties so that they could be transferred to another private party.

  • September 1, 2005    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Kelo v. City of New London

    What it Means and the Need for Real Eminent Domain reform

    This white paper explains to both legislators and the general public why eminent domain reform is needed after the Kelo v. New London decision.

  • April 1, 2003    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Public Power, Private Gain

    A Five-Year, State-by-State Report Examining the Abuse of Eminent Domain

    In the first-ever report to document private-to-private takings, the Institute for Justice found more than 10,000 instances of eminent domain abuse in just a five-year-period.

  • March 1, 2002    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Government Theft

    The Top 10 Abuses of Eminent Domain

    The Institute for Justice brings together the 10 most egregious uses of eminent domain for private purposes from 1998 to 2001.

  • January 1, 1997    |    Studies on Barriers to Entrepreneurship

    Starting a small business in Boston often turns into a regulatory endurance test for would-be entrepreneurs.

  • January 1, 1997    |    Studies on Barriers to Entrepreneurship

    Detroit is plagued by an intimidating bureaucracy, stifling and expensive rules, and a lack of easily obtained information. The government needs to get out of the way to allow the residents of Detroit to reach their true potential.

Liberty and Law

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