When a developer and the city of Norwood, Ohio, teamed up to bulldoze homes and small businesses for the developer’s private gain, IJ teamed up with the owners to fight back.
Using a study initiated and paid for by the developer, the city declared the neighborhood “deteriorating” so it could use eminent domain under Ohio law, even though the study admitted that none of the homes or businesses in the area were dilapidated or delinquent on taxes.
In July 2006, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled to protect our clients’ property from eminent domain abuse. It held that courts should apply “heightened scrutiny” to uses of eminent domain. It also held that statutes authorizing takings cannot be vague and that Norwood’s definition of “deteriorating” failed that test. The court further found that an Ohio law allowing property to be taken and destroyed before an appeal is completed (and forbidding courts from enjoining that destruction) was unconstitutional. Finally, it rejected the U.S. Supreme Court’s rationale in Kelo v. City of New London that takings for economic development are a “public use.”