D.C. eminent domain lawyers awarded fees in Norwood case: Cincinnati OH Enquirer, 1/27/07

By Steve Kemme

A Hamilton County judge ruled Friday that the Institute for Justice is entitled to be compensated for attorney fees and expenses connected with its work in the Norwood eminent domain case.

The Institute, a civil-liberties law firm in Washington, represented for free several property owners who fought Norwood's seizure of their property by eminent domain.

Norwood wanted the property so that a developer could build a $125 million office-retail-condo development called the Rookwood Exchange on 11 acres at Edwards and Edmondson roads. Last July, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled against Norwood and the developer and ordered the property returned to its previous owners.

The Institute for Justice has asked for more than $850,000 in attorney fees and expenses.

Attorneys for the Rookwood Partners, the developer of the proposed Rookwood Exchange, argued that Ohio law doesn't permit compensation for attorney fees when no fees were charged.

But Common Pleas Judge Beth Myers ruled that Ohio law permits nonprofit agencies that represent property owners in eminent-domain cases to be compensated. She cited numerous previous court decisions that supported the institute's position.

"We are pleased with Judge Myers' ruling," said Scott Bullock, attorney for the Institute for Justice. "We think she got the law exactly right."

Tim Burke, attorney for Norwood who also was speaking for Rookwood Partners, said Myers' decision likely will be appealed to the Ohio First District Court of Appeals. He said a final decision about whether to appeal won't be made until all the unresolved issues in the case are settled.

These issues include:
  • The amount of compensation the institute should receive for attorney fees and expenses.
  • Who's responsible for paying for damages that occurred to the holdout property owners' three houses while Norwood and the Rookwood Partners controlled them.
  • How much of the $1 million set aside in property valuation deposits controlled by the court must be returned to Rookwood Partners.
  • Who will pay to restore utilities for the three properties still standing on the land.

If Myers' ruling stands, attorneys for Rookwood Partners have said that Rookwood Partners, not Norwood, would have to pay the institute.

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