Eminent Domain

Citing Deference to 'Broad' Government Power, Judge Says Atlantic City May Bulldoze Home to Benefit Casino

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According to the New Jersey Constitution, state officials may only condemn private property for redevelopment purposes when that property is "blighted." Yet in a ruling issued on Monday, Judge Julio L. Mendez of the New Jersey Superior Court allowed Atlantic City to seize one man's non-blighted family home. Why? Because the state enjoys "broad" powers, the judge said, and the courts have no business standing in the way.

Known as Casino Reinvestment Development Authority v. Birnbaum, this case originated in 2012 when Atlantic City officials announced a "South Inlet Mixed Use Development Project" designed to "complement the new Revel Casino and assist with the demands created by the resort." Although the specifics of the plan were never announced and the Revel Casino recently declared bankruptcy, state officials have persisted in their efforts to snatch up various parcels of land on behalf of this shadowy real estate scheme. Among the properties targeted for condemnation is the well-tended family home of Charles Birnbaum, located near the Atlantic City boardwalk.

"The so-called Project consists entirely of high-blown rhetoric and a handful of 'conceptual' drawings provided by the Revel Casino," Birnbaum and his lawyers at the Institute for Justice told the court. "This project fails to satisfy any of the requirements that would allow CRDA to take the Birnbaum Family Home."

They're right. Birnbaum's home is neither blighted nor in need of any urban renewal. And as the New Jersey Supreme Court has plainly stated, "the New Jersey Constitution authorizes government redevelopment of only 'blighted areas.'"

Yet despite the clear limitations imposed on state eminent domain power by both constitutional text and legal precedent, Judge Mendez went ahead and rubber stamped the land grab anyway. The CRDA's actions, he said, serve "the public purpose of promoting tourism and assisting the ailing gaming industry."

But if that loose standard is allowed to become law, no property in or around Atlantic City would ever be safe from the government's bulldozers.

Fortunately, the case is not done yet. Birnbaum plans to file an appeal and as his lawyer Robert McNamara declared, "the Constitution of New Jersey does not allow this, the people of New Jersey should not tolerate this, and neither Charlie nor the Institute for Justice will permit this ruling to stand."

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  1. Because the state enjoys “broad” powers, the judge said, and the courts have no business standing in the way.

    Get that man an appointment on the United States Supreme Court!

    Also, isn’t Atlantic City going tits up now that surrounding areas are allowing gambling?

    1. Hell, I’m about to get a casino within a 30 minute (lovely) bike ride of my house. Fuck AC.

    2. Yup, at least three casinos just went under within the past few months.

      1. Actually, four casinos have closed, with a fifth teetering on the brink.

        1. All because they hadn’t bulldozed enough of the surrounding neighborhoods.

  2. I’m gonna start a clickbait site called “I Fucking Love IJ”.

    1. Guess I’ll be sending IJ another check, god bless em.

      1. I give to them via Amazon Smile. They’ll really make out like bandits when I get around to re-furnishing my house.

  3. And I thought limited government was what this country was founded on?May he be first against the wall.

    1. I’m in favor of bringing back tar and feathers.

      1. The boats!

    2. Maybe it’s what a bunch of white slaveowners founded the country on when they wrote the Constitution like 100 years ago, but now we know better.

  4. “Although the specifics of the plan were never announced and the Revel Casino recently declared bankruptcy, state officials have persisted in their efforts to snatch up various parcels of land”.

    I guess this is why some people still move to California.

    They probably figure, how much worse can it be than [New Jersey]?

    1. Hah,

      I’ve had several family members move here from NJ in the last couple of years. And they love it.

      So as bad as CA is…

  5. No doubt this will be a typical ‘redevelopment’ that tears down the existing homes and then runs out of money. Leaving a truly blighted lot wear someone previously lived.

    1. Exactly what happened in New London CT. Land was seized for a corporate center – which was then abandoned.

      Good tax paying neighborhood destroyed for some vague public good that never materialized

    2. That’s only because you rat-bagging teafuckers keep filing your lawsuits and standing in the way of cronyism progress!

  6. Why does anyone live in New Jersey? Serious question. Live on Long Island, live in the Philly suburbs… anywhere but New Jersey.

    Every time I’d have to drive there (when I lived in the Philly suburbs) I felt dirty.

    1. Oh, please. LI is NJ if you had to drive through the heart of NYC in order to get away for the weekend. Even its charms are worse versions of what could be had in NJ (unless you’re filthy stinking rich and summering in the Hamptons; we don’t really have a comp to that).

      I wish I could live in the Philly suburbs, but thanks to my wife’s choice in gainful employment I am statutorily barred from moving there.

    2. I live in NJ and despise the state politics – but you are out of your mind if you think anywhere in NY state is better – particularly LI. Talk about out of the pan and into the fire.

  7. I think casinos might actually be a dumber form of urban renewal than sports stadiums. They legalized gambling in Atlantic City figuring it would make money because it wasn’t legal anywhere other than Las Vegas. That wasn’t a bad idea except that it was inevitable that other places would legalize gambling and the money would run out.

    Ultimately, your wealth comes from what services and goods your population produces. All casinos produce is entertainment. That is fine and all but the market for entertainment is limited and you can’t eat entertainment only sell it to people who have money to burn.

    1. They also had the flawed idea that the people and money coming into the city because of the casinos would “re-vitalize” Atlantic City. Except people never leave the casinos to go out into the town, because everything you need or want is inside the casinos including food, shopping, entertainment, etc. So you had a bunch of expensive casinos and the rest of the city remained Camden on the Sea.

      1. Yes. To produce the product you just need a lot of low skilled and medium skilled workers. What is the highest skilled worker in a casino? The chef or head dealer maybe? Most people who work in a casino are low skilled and don’t make a lot of money. So the money that comes into the casino is going to go mostly in the owners’ pockets and not into the local economy.

        Contrast a casino with a nice dirty factory making cars or plastic parts or something. There most of your workers are going to be skilled and fairly well paid and will live and spend their money in the local community. That is a hell of a lot better deal than a casino. But, casinos allow connected cronies to get rich and are heavily regulated. So of course the politicians in places like New Jersey would rather have a casino than a factory in the community.

        1. To be fair, I think modern casinos employ quite a few skilled workers in IT and anti-fraud. But yeah, the majority are probably all in service.

        2. And the enviros and SJWs won’t fight a casino like they would a manufacturing plant, and the casinos allow for much more skim for the politicos.

      2. To be fair, everything you need or want is inside the casinos including food, shopping, entertainment, is in the casinos because Atlantic City is an armpit.

    2. Ultimately, it’s about diversification and adaptation. Economic fortunes change all the time, even for areas that produce something more tangible than entertainment. Anytime you put all your eggs in one basket, you’re taking a risk. That’s especially true when your eggs are capital, buildings, and infrastructure that can’t be easily repurposed.

      1. If you are a small city, sometimes you have to put your eggs in one basket. Yes, it is tough to be a company town unless the company is government.

        Ultimately, Atlantic City is poor because it has a lousy government and business climate. Also, it was never going to come back that strong anyway. It was a vacation spot that got big before air travel. Once people could fly to the Miami cheaply, AC was going to get smaller no matter what.

  8. It’s long been the case in the law of eminent domain that “blighted” means “sitting on land that the aristocracy of pull wants.”

  9. Because the state enjoys “broad” powers, the judge said, and the courts have no business standing in the way.

    Um, wut? I take it that judges no longer understand their role in the government with respect to discerning what the letter of the law actually means. I propose that “law” no longer exists in any meaningful context.

    1. The rule of law is an outdated concept. We now have the rule of feelz.

    2. Judges are paid by the government. Why would they rule against it?

  10. Atlantic City officials announced a “South Inlet Mixed Use Development Project” designed to “complement the new Revel Casino and assist with the demands created by the resort.”

    Sooooo…

    They’re turning his house into a parking lot, right?

  11. “the public purpose of promoting tourism and assisting the ailing gaming industry.”

    Because that is most definitely the proper role of government.

    1. But if that loose standard is allowed to become law, no property in or around Atlantic City would ever be safe from the government’s bulldozers.

      That’s the point.

  12. I eagerly await Governor Christie’s statement of unequivocal support for this gentleman’s property rights.

    1. He’ll get right on that, as soon as he gets off the treadmill.

  13. OT: I just saw Interstellar. Despite my line of work, I didn’t find the physics and astronomy stuff to be as absurd as the notion of global famine. The basic premise of the movie is a great argument for GMO crops. I wonder if Monsanto underwrote part of it.

  14. The state constitution says “blighted areas”, not “blighted property”. Technically, couldn’t a well-maintained home in an otherwise blighted area be subject to condemnation under that verbiage? Relying on the constitution isn’t as black and white as the article makes it seem.

    It would also be nice if there was a link to the actual opinion of this Judge Mendez… Lower court opinions are not easy to find online. The article’s selective quoting of language that may only be dicta taken out of context adds little legitimacy. (It didn’t help that the NJ Supreme Court opinion cited to isn’t really on point.)

    I understand that there’s a general hostility to eminent domain on these pages, which I generally support. However, this article is poorly sourced and suffering from obvious bias which only harms arguments against the practice.

    1. I wasn’t clear in the last paragraph. I am also generally hostile to eminent domain powers, especially for “redevelopment”.

  15. Atlantic City is a hellhole because of the casinos. Kicking people out of their houses to make more casinos is exactly the opposite of the public interest.

    Maybe Judge Rubberstamp did the guy at least one favor. What are you thinking if you live in AC? Get the fuck out of there!

    1. And the casinos are all going to go broke. No one goes to Atlantic City anymore. There is no reason to. If you want to gamble, you can do so literally in every nearby state. Once the fake Indian tribe up in Connecticut opened Fox Woods, AC was doomed.

      1. And now you don’t even need to be an injun (fake or otherwise) to open a casino. I’m really curious how National Harbor is going to morph once they put the casino in. Maybe I should buy property in Oxon Hill.

        1. Maryland is so dumb. Of course they think casinos are the way to prosperity. And even before they did that, there is a nice casino in Charlestown West Virginia, about an hour and a half outside the beltway.

          1. The one at National Harbor is going to be a 5 minute drive from my house (and, as I said above, a really nice 30-minute bike ride). Fuck Charles Town.

            If it’s not a total zoo (which it will be if the one at Arundel Mills is any indication), I will engage in some Hold ‘Em and blackjack occasionally.

            1. I could be a degenerate gambler if I allowed myself to be. I love blackjack and craps. But the house always wins eventually. I am just too cheap to bring myself to do it very often.

  16. You’d think the legislature might be interested in calling the judge to testify about his understanding of the NJ Constitution and role of the judiciary.

    Well, if they hadn’t been paid off by the same developer that paid off the judge, anyway.

    1. Or the legislature had any problem with a judge ruling they had “broad powers” to do anything they wanted.

  17. Does anyone else here remember joe from lowell defending eminent domain in “Kelo v New London” on the grounds that it produced more revenue for the state?

    This is the logical extension of that. (I was going to say ‘logical end’, but then I remembered that joe wanted to bulldoze the suburbs and make everyone live in high rises so we could be like Japan and go everywhere on choo-choos.)

    1. Yes I remember that. And he was utterly certain that since the government was planning it, the project was going to make money and be a success rather than end up as an empty lot.

      On one of the Keystone threads someone made a great point that I wish I had thought of and should have thought of long before reading it. The only reason anyone has to rely on ED to get something built is because all of the regulation and permitting bullshit requires them to commit to a particular plan up front. This takes away all of their bargaining leverage with the landowners, since the landowners know they have to build there or start the process all over again.

      If we would get rid of the regulations and requiring public approval every time a large business wants to expand, the land owners wouldn’t be getting fucked by ED.

    2. Japan’s the way it is because it has to be. If the Rockies extended from Philadelphia to San Francisco we’d be plenty trainbound too.

    3. How could we forget? Joe was a typical progressive. “Kill the little guy, he’s in the way of progress.”

  18. my roomate’s step-aunt makes $77 every hour on the computer . She has been fired for five months but last month her payment was $20090 just working on the computer for a few hours. site here…..

    ?????? http://www.payinsider.com

  19. You know, while I’m not a believer in extralegal actions, it wouldn’t exactly cause me to break into tears to find out this fellow put whatever toxins into the ground and abandoned the property.

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