Coming Soon to Season Six of The Wire


The Baltimore City Paper profiles John C. Murphy, a lawyer who battles the city in eminent domain cases and has recently been winning more of them.

When appealing the quick take on [bar owner George] Valsamaki's behalf, Murphy was able to convince the court that the city of Baltimore was going to extremes by using quick-take powers. The Magnet Bar wasn't deteriorating or on the verge of collapsing, so where was the "immediate need" for the quick take, the judges asked. Court of Appeals Judge Alan M. Wilner criticized the city's open-ended planning system throughout the court's 58-page decision. "Even had the case involved the use of regular condemnation, the evidence presented below of public use was sparse," he wrote in part. "The City has only shown that the Property is to be acquired for renewal purposes to assist in a `business expansion' in the area."

Two months later, a Murphy-originated case was back in the Court of Appeals. Murphy had been hired to represent Robert A. Sapero, owner of the Chesapeake Restaurant. The one-time landmark on the corner of Charles and Lanvale streets, just south of the Charles Theatre, has been closed for almost two decades; the Baltimore Development Corp. asked the city to do a quick-take condemnation on the property to aid in revitalizing a block where nightlife has blossomed in recent years. Murphy appealed the quick take in Circuit Court and lost, but attorney Alan R. Engel appealed the case the Court of Appeals, which ruled in Sapero's favor. Again the court's decision admonished the city for not demonstrating the urgency behind using quick take.

It's a good read considering how Murphy has warned reporters of how boring he is. (He'd prefer they cover his clients and their heart-tugging tales.)