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Major California Property Rights Victory for Landowners in Eminent Domain Abuse Fight; National City Violated Federal Constitution and State Laws


NATIONAL CITY, CA — A California gym that mentors at-risk kids scored a knockout legal blow against eminent domain abuse in California. Yesterday, April 21, Judge Steven R. Denton of the Superior Court of California ruled in favor of the Community Youth Athletic Center (CYAC) and against National City, Calif., in one of the most important property rights cases in the nation. Carlos Barragan, Jr., who along with his father created the CYAC as a means of keeping local at-risk kids out of gangs, will join with other CYAC leaders at the gym at 10:30 a.m. California time to discuss the ruling with the


media. The gym is located at 1018 National City Blvd., National City, Calif. The Court struck down National


City’s entire 692-property eminent domain zone in the first decision to apply the legal reforms that California enacted to counter the disastrous U.S. Supreme Court Kelo decision in 2005. This ruling, which found that National City lacked a legal basis for its blight declaration, reinforces vital protections for property owners across the state, and underscores why redevelopment agen- cies should be abolished.


The Court also ruled that National City violated the Due Process clause of the U.S. Constitution in failing to pro- vide the CYAC with statutorily required information prior to an important public hearing. Finally, in a holding with implications well beyond redevelopment law, the Court also held that when the govern- ment retains a private consultant to per- form government functions—in this case, documenting the existence of alleged “blight” in National City—docu- ments that the private consultant pro-


Berliner said, “This decision will go a long way in protecting Californians throughout the state against eminent domain abuse.”


duces are public records subject to dis- closure under the California Public Records Act. The Court also set a clear standard for what government agencies have to do in searching the records of their private consultants in response to a Public Records Act request. “After Kelo, the California Legislature limited a city’s ability to declare ‘blight’ based on trivial things like ‘lack of parking’ and required real evidence and documentation from rede- velopment agencies,” said Dana Berliner, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which repre- sented the CYAC for free. “National City completely ignored the new law when


it decided to threaten the CYAC and nearly 700 other properties with eminent domain for private development. The Court’s decision holds that the new law placed real restrictions on redevelopment agencies and that National City violated the law. This is the very first case inter- preting the changes to the law that went into effect on January 1, 2007, in response to the Kelo decision.” Berliner said, “This decision will go a long way in protecting Californians throughout the state against eminent domain abuse.”


Clemente Casillas, the CYAC


President, said, “I hope National City does the right thing now and throws in the towel so we can get back to focusing all our attention on helping to grow the kids in our community. The city can have redevelopment, but that has to be done through private negotiation, not by government force.” IJ Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes said, “Redevelopment agencies always use pri- vate consultants to come up with blight studies. The Court ruled that the docu- ments and data produced by those con-


sultants are public records, just like gov- ernment-produced documents. That rul- ing will help everyone trying to fight a blight designation of their neighborhood, and it will also help the media and any- one else trying to get more information about government projects. We’ve been saying for years that the city’s blight study lacked any information the CYAC needed to do a meaningful review. The court agreed, saying it was mostly jargon and that the city should have given the CYAC more time and continued the public hearing when the CYAC request- ed it.”


California Governor Jerry Brown has


proposed eliminating local redevelop- ment agencies across the state. These agencies, which are run by the cities they reside in, have taken properties they did- n’t own only to hand that land over to those with more political power. They have driven city after city in California to the brink of bankruptcy, often for noth- ing more than private gain.


“National City has been labeling this


area blighted since the 1960s,” said Rowes. “This decision provides another example of a redevelopment agency that is out of control and should be abol- ished.”


The CYAC got almost everything it asked for in this lawsuit. The Court invalidated the city’s redevelopment plan amendment that authorized eminent domain, declared that the city violated the Public Records Act, declared that the city violated the CYAC’s due process rights, and gave the CYAC nominal dam- ages. The CYAC is finally free from the threat of eminent domain for the first time in nearly four years. Richard M. Segal, Brian D. Martin and Nathan R. Smith from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in San Diego, acting as pro bono local counsel, put in extraordinary time and effort on the case.


Indian Voices • May 2011


Join Us at Our 17th Annual Law Luncheon


Join the ACLU of Southern California as it honors the firms and individuals who have worked with us in the past year to defend our civil rights and civil liberties. We applaud their allegiance to the Bill of Rights and their commitment to justice and equality. Keynote speaker: Erwin Chemerinsky “Wikileaks, National Security, and the Challenge to the First Amendment” Thursday, June 16 11:30 a.m. - 1:30


p.m. Wilshire Grand Hotel (930 Wilshire Blvd.) Los Angeles, CA 90017 Tickets start at $150 and sponsorship at $1,500. TICKETS:


http://socal.aclu.org/site/R?i=RN_d1CV5 m3kK6j_yRZfqRQ.. Our 2011 Awardees


Corporate Responsibility in the


Media Award Univision Courageous Advocacy Award Munger Tolles & Olson LLP Jacob


Kreilkamp; Sara Nagala Laura Smolowe; Marina Torres; Joseph Ybarra Education Advocacy Award Morrison & Foerster LLP Saro Balian; Doug Beteta; Jack Londen ;Dan Marmalefsky


Social Justice Award


Morrison & Foerster LLP Sean Gates; Hailly Korman; Dale Larson; Jack Londen; Miriam Vogel Social Media Advocacy Award Dan Savage & the It Gets Better


Project


Medical Privacy Award Davis Wright Tremaine LLP Jennifer


Brockett; Aleah Yung Schutze Religious Liberty Award Alston + Bird LLP Jonathan Gordon; Cassandra Hooks Leib Lerner Equal Justice Advocacy Award Sullivan & Cromwell LLP Asel Aliyasova; Theresa Buckley; Antonia Stamenova-Dancheva; Shawn Lichaa Alexa Lawson-Remer; Damion Robinson Michael Steinberg


Statement by the President on Court Approval of Settlement of Native American Farmers Lawsuit Against USDA


Today, the U.S. District Court


approved the settlement reached by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice with the plain- tiffs in the Keepseagle class action law- suit. This is yet another important step forward in addressing an unfortunate chapter in USDA’s civil rights history. This settlement would not have


been reached without the leadership of


Secretary Vilsack and Attorney General Holder, and I want to thank them both for their hard work on behalf of Native American farmers. Today’s approval of the settlement will help strengthen our nation to nation relationship with Indian Country and reinforce the idea that all citizens have a right to be treat- ed fairly by their government.


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