Phillip Suderman · September 21, 2023


CONTACT: Phillip Suderman, [email protected], 850-376-4110 

FREEPORT, Texas—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) filed a motion with the Brazoria County Court to formally represent the Marshall family in their fight to keep their family properties. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for September 29 in Angleton, Texas, where IJ will join with the Marshalls’ original attorney to urge the court to order the return of their properties and set a trial to award damages for the unlawful destruction of their homes. 

Since 1940, the Marshall family has owned and passed down property in the East End section of Freeport, Texas. Forced to move to the area after local redlining laws pushed out Black families from the rest of Freeport, the property represents more than just financial value; it has become a symbol of resiliency and resolve.  

“This land wasn’t just our home,” said Pam Tilley, a member of the Marshall family, “it was a legacy. A historical legacy that goes well beyond even my family to encompass the entire community. The land that was taken was a place where families gathered, congregations assembled, and roots were spread. It was meant to be handed down from generation to generation, a place of shared memories to bridge us all together. And now it’s gone.” 

It’s gone because the Freeport Port took it—or is trying to. In 2020, the Port filed an eminent domain action seeking to take the Marshall family land. Though the case is still ongoing, the Port has already bulldozed the homes. And, in recent testimony, Port officials have confessed that the bulldozing is their only plan: The Port has no idea what it will do with the Marshalls’ property after taking it. 

“The Port’s plan is to take this property, knock everything down, and then think really hard about what might go there instead,” explained IJ Attorney Jeff Redfern. “But that gets things backwards. Government can use eminent domain when it needs land for a public use, not when it thinks it might get a good idea for it someday.”  

In papers filed with the court, the Marshalls argue that taking their land for no reason violates both the Texas and the United States Constitutions. They ask the court to rule that the condemnation is unlawful, return the land to the Marshalls, and order the Port to pay for the damage it has done to the homes. 

“The Port seems to believe it can destroy the Marshalls’ homes for any reason or for none,” concluded IJ Senior Attorney Robert McNamara. “But if the government can use eminent domain just based on the hope it comes up with a plan in the future, no one’s property is safe. Fortunately for the Marshalls—and for all of us—the Constitution demands more.”  

IJ is the national expert on defending property owners against eminent domain abuse and other property rights violations. IJ has represented property owners fighting eminent domain in Sparta, Georgia, Southold, New York, and others. You can find out more about our work on our website

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