Washington, D.C.—Today, Judge Beth Myers of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas ruled that Rookwood Partners (the development group headed by Jeffrey Anderson), is free to damage or destroy local businessman Joe Horney’s property during his appeal of the City of Norwood’s right to take his property for Rookwood’s private benefit. This means that the tenants to whom Mr. Horney rents the building could be evicted immediately after the beginning of the new year. Although the Court acknowledged that Mr. Horney will suffer irreparable harm if his property is destroyed, it refused to protect him from that harm.
The Court did say, however, that Rookwood assumes the risk that Mr. Horney will get his property back on appeal: “Norwood and Rookwood act at their own risk in this regard; should Defendants prevail, Norwood and/or Rookwood may be required to return the property.” Rookwood has consistently argued that it gets to keep Mr. Horney’s property no matter what happens on appeal—even though Ohio law clearly contradicts that argument. Although the Court did not explicitly rule on that argument today, its decision undermines Rookwood’s position that it is entitled to ignore the outcome of the appellate process.
Currently, a similar motion for an injunction by Carl and Joy Gamble, who have lived in their home for more than 35 years, is also pending before Judge Myers. Today’s ruling could result in the Gambles being forced from their home in early February.
Bert Gall, staff attorney at the Institute for Justice, which represents the property owners for free, said, “We will appeal the Court’s decision immediately. It was bad enough that the Court allowed the City to take our clients’ property for Jeffrey Anderson’s private benefit. It’s even worse that it has allowed Anderson to take the wrecking ball to their home and businesses during their appeal.”
“I cannot believe that the Court has allowed Jeffrey Anderson to evict my tenants and destroy their home during my appeal,” said Joe Horney. “Jeffrey Anderson is taking away everything I’ve worked for without respecting my right to an appeal. I will keep fighting, because if he can do this to me, he can do it to anyone.”
“The Court’s decision is indefensible, and it threatens home and business owners everywhere,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice. “Under the Court’s ruling, private developers can not only take your home or business with the City’s help, they can destroy it before your appeal is heard. That’s outrageous.”
The Institute for Justice works to restore substance to the constitutional requirement that property can only be taken by the government for traditional public uses, such as roads and necessary public buildings, rather than for the benefit of private parties.