Saturday, September 11, 2010

Expropriation - A Look at Government Takings in the LSU/VA Hospitals Footprint

In Louisiana's civil law-based legal system, eminent domain goes by another name: expropriation.

Back in March, the first expropriation of property in the VA Footprint by the LSU Board of Supervisors, the former Pan-Am Building on Canal, caused a stir.  But what's been happening expropriation-wise in the hospital site since that time?

Yesterday, I went to the clerk's office at Civil District Court here in New Orleans.  A would-be expropriating party must file a petition and deposit a check with the court and obtain an order, among other things, when seizing property.

It turns out LSU has expropriated over 50 properties in New Orleans since May 1 of this year.  There were so many petitions that I could not confirm (before the office closed for the day) that every last one of them was a property inside the LSU/VA hospitals footprint, but many of the party names indicated LLCs set up to run properties at addresses inside the footprint.  And I'm not aware of any other major LSU expropriation target sites in the parish.

Fortunately, Bill Barrow's piece in the Times-Picayune on yesterday's press house moving conference noted that the developing parties "have filed dozens of expropriations on properties whose owners have not accepted the government's offering price."  

I hope someone from the paper takes an extensive look at the expropriations - it's a task that requires some significant investigative effort (if anyone needs the case id numbers to pursue this further, I can share them, which would save a good deal of time in the clerk's office).

The widespread use of takings in this process further reinforces the analogy to the aftermath of the situation in New London, Connecticut in the Kelo case, especially given the uncertainty of LSU's ability to obtain the funds necessary for its part of the new hospital complex.  As in Kelo, we now have a situation where government takings may be used on a large scale against private property owners...and there's a significant question whether the intended goal project will be built at all.

Expropriating - literally the heavy hand of government forcing a private property owner of his or her land - for acres of surface level parking lots is bad enough.  Expropriating  for nothing is even worse.

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