Eminent Domain Abuse on Trial
By Bert Gall
When the abuse of eminent domain is finally stopped, historians may look back on January 11 as the day that turned the tide in favor of American homeowners. Dozens of Castle Coalition members and other Ohioans converged in Columbus to rally against eminent domain for private gain and to see Carl and Joy Gamble and Joe Horney have their day before the Ohio Supreme Court. The City of Norwood condemned the Gambles’ home, Joe’s rental home and other properties so that a private developer could build a complex of chain stores, condos and office space. Although lower courts had mostly rubber-stamped the City’s actions, the Gambles and Joe persevered, knowing that they weren’t fighting only for their rights, but for the rights of every person who’s ever been a victim of eminent domain abuse.
At IJ headquarters, above, staff watch the Ohio Supreme Court’s live web feed of the argument. Right, IJ Senior Attorney Dana Berliner presents the case of homeowners to the Ohio Supreme Court.
IJ Senior Attorney Dana Berliner’s closing remarks to the Ohio Supreme Court
“As the members of this court drive home today, I ask you to think about which of the dozens of neighborhoods you pass would not be ‘deteriorating’ under Norwood’s definition. Which of them have no diversity of ownership, no older buildings, no cul-de-sacs, no driveways people have to back out of. Those neighborhoods are full of people like Carl and Joy Gamble and unless this court rules in their favor today, all of those neighborhoods will be subject to condemnation for private development under Ohio’s Constitution.”
IJ Senior Attorney Dana Berliner argued the case—the first on eminent domain abuse to be argued before a state supreme court since the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Kelo decision. She reminded the Court that the Ohio Constitution, like other state constitutions, recognizes more protection for private property than the U.S. Supreme Court said the federal Constitution provides. She also made it clear that if the Ohio Supreme Court follows Kelo, there will be absolutely no protections for Ohio property owners against eminent domain abuse.
After the argument, the crowd that packed the courtroom gathered in a large meeting room in a nearby hotel to congratulate Dana and other Norwood team members on a job well done and to thank the Gambles and Joe for the courage they’ve displayed in the midst of enormous adversity. The Court will make its decision in the next few months. Win or lose, these homeowners are true American heroes.
Bert Gall is an IJ staff attorney.