Trial Court Rules NJ State Agency Can Take Atlantic City Home Even Without Any Specified Use for the Property

John Kramer
John Kramer · November 18, 2014

Arlington, Va.—A New Jersey Superior Court today ruled that a state agency does not need to have any specific plans in order to take and destroy a person’s home. That was the crux of a ruling handed down this evening by the Honorable Julio L. Mendez, which authorized a state agency’s attempt to take the longtime family home of Charlie Birnbaum, the Atlantic City piano tuner who has gained national renown for his fight to protect the property his parents left to him.

“Today’s ruling means that Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) can take any piece of property in Atlantic City, anytime they want, for any reason or for no reason,” said IJ Senior Attorney Robert McNamara. “The idea that any government entity can be trusted with that level of power is appalling and outrageous. The Constitution of New Jersey does not allow this, the people of New Jersey should not tolerate this, and neither Charlie nor the Institute for Justice will permit this ruling to stand.”
In today’s ruling, which repeatedly stressed the “broad” powers granted to CRDA, the judge wrote, “The Court agrees with the CRDA’s position that they are not required to produce plans identifying specific uses or structures for the property.”
IJ Attorney Dan Alban said of the ruling, “The court’s opinion stresses that the legislature wanted to give CRDA very broad powers. But limited government means that we look at more than what the legislature wanted; we have to look at what the Constitution allows. And neither the New Jersey nor the U.S. Constitution allow government to engage in this kind of purposeless land grab.”
“If Charlie’s property is not safe, no one’s property is safe,” concluded IJ President and General Counsel Chip Mellor. “The only thing that stands between the people of New Jersey and this kind of unprincipled government theft is an engaged judiciary, and that is why this ruling must be and will be appealed.”