Eminent domain legal bill is $850K: Cincinnati OH Enquirer, 12/20/06

By Steve Kemme

Attorneys argued in Hamilton Common Pleas Court Tuesday about whether the Institute for Justice should be compensated for attorney fees and expenses in the Norwood eminent-domain case.

The Institute for Justice, a civil-liberties law firm that successfully represented at no charge the property owners who fought Norwood's use of eminent domain, is seeking more than $850,000 in compensation from Rookwood Partners.

Rookwood Partners wanted to build a $125 million commercial development at Edwards and Edmondson roads.

But the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in July that Norwood illegally used eminent domain to acquire properties on the proposed Rookwood Exchange site from people who didn't want to sell.

That ruling stopped the project from being built.

Scott Bullock, attorney for the Institute for Justice, said Ohio law allows non-profit organizations that win cases involving constitutional law to be compensated for fees and expenses even when no fees have been charged to their clients.

Courts in similar cases have supported such compensation requests, he said.

Bullock said it would be an injustice if attorneys who represent their clients for free in eminent-domain cases are denied compensation for fees.

But Tim Burke, attorney for Norwood, and Bryan Pacheco, attorney for the Rookwood Partners, said Ohio law permits compensation only to property owners who have paid attorney fees.

The Institute for Justice doesn't qualify for compensation, he said.

"The Institute's clients paid no attorney fees," Burke said. "The property owners incurred no actual expenses.

Judge Beth Myers said she will issue a written decision in January.

Attorneys for Rookwood Partners have agreed to pay the attorney fees the holdout property owners accumulated during the property valuation phase of the eminent domain case.

Private attorneys, not the Institute for Justice, represented them during those proceedings.

The Gambles lived in their house, Horney rented his house and the Burtons operated a learning center from their building.

Cincinnati OH Enquirer: http://news.enquirer.com