Eminent Domain

N.J. Judge Reverses Course, Blocking Seizure of Atlantic City House

Unless the redevelopment authority can show its plan has a good chance of actually happening, Charlie Birnbaum gets to keep his property.


Institute for Justice

Last fall New Jersey Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez ruled that the state's Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) could proceed with plans to seize piano tuner Charlie Birnbaum's Atlantic City house even though it had no clear idea of what it would do with the property. Yesterday Mendez changed his mind. Sort of. Mendez said the CRDA is "not required to produce plans identifying the specific structure that will be on the property." But he expressed concern that the CRDA's South Inlet Mixed Use Development Project, the pretext for taking Birnbaum's house, may never materialize:

The Court shares Birnbaum's concern about the uncertainty of the various plans for Atlantic City's recovery and the ability of the CRDA to implement the plan that justifies the taking of the Birnbaum property….The Court lacks confidence that the plans as presented here will be effectuated in light of the uncertainty surrounding Atlantic City, the economic conditions of Atlantic City, and the pending legislation [that would cut the CRDA's funding]….

The Court's concern is that it is unclear whether the plan proposed for the Birnbaum property remains viable in light of the pending legislation and economic uncertainty surrounding Atlantic City….The Court must have reasonable assurances that the plan that justifies the taking of the property will be implemented, to avoid a situation where the Birnbaum property is taken, remaining idle for years, and never being used for a public use or benefit.

The development project was originally intended to "complement the new Revel Casino and assist with the demands created by the resort." Revel went bankrupt and closed last September, making the point of the project—which Birnbaum's lawyers described as "a vague notion rather than specific plan"—rather fuzzy.

That much was clear last November, when Mendez said the CRDA nevertheless could condemn Birnbaum's house and figure out what to do with it later. But yesterday he ordered the authority to "reevaluate the feasibility of the proposed project" and gave it 180 days to supply additional evidence that it needs the house for a "public use." Absent such evidence, he said, the forfeiture cannot proceed. Mendez explained his reversal by citing casino closings and a proposed bill that would sharply cut the CRDA's budget, developments that were apparent prior to his last decision.

"This ruling underscores that what CRDA is doing makes no sense," said Birnbaum, whose family has owned the house for 45 years and whose piano tuning business is located on the first floor. "Thank goodness that Judge Mendez has brought this kind of common sense to the situation."

Robert McNamara, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, which is representing Birnbaum and his wife, Cindy, called the decision "a victory for judicial engagement and for property rights nationwide," adding that the CRDA "isn't taking Charlie's property because they need it for something; they're just taking it because they think they can get away with it." Yesterday's ruling, he said, shows "that is simply not enough."

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  1. Donal Trump is sad.

    1. Oh god not another trump thread.

      1. I bid four no Trump.

  2. Who’s paying for Birnbaums’ lawyer? Because it’s a travesty if it’s the Birnbaums’ themselves.

    1. Robert McNamara, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, which is representing Birnbaum and his wife, Cindy

      IIRC, the IJ would do it free.

      1. IIRC, the IJ would do it free.

        Yes, which is why I think the IJ deserves more recognition, so they can receive more donations.

  3. Sorry,I spelled that wrong it’s ‘Devil’

  4. How does this decision comport with the Kelo decision and Chevron deference? It certainly seems that the judge is turning this down not on any principled grounds but simply on the grounds that he disagrees on whether or not the public good is served by the taking. Well who the hell is this judge to substitute his opinion for that of the city council?

    I’m not arguing that this is a ‘good’ taking, but this seems like a good illustration of how we no longer have a rule of law but a rule of men and that’s a bad thing no matter how you slice it. It’s great for this guy that he gets to keep his house, but what about the next guy? Does he get to keep his house, too? Who the hell knows? He gets to keep his house if he can find some judge to say he can keep his house and if he can’t he can’t.? What the fuck kind of law is that? It’s not a law, it’s a whim.

    1. As crazy fucked and over-lawyered this place has become, a whim of a judge that doesn’t damage someone is always welcome in my pragmatic book. But let’s keep keeping on, niggas, and get some shit changed in this country so that the flush and rich bells of liberty can rise above the incessant tsunami of law that threatens every fucking day to drown their lovely tolls.

      1. It’s fine to be pragmatic, but let’s not sacrifice principle to pragmatism. You may be fine with the outcome of this particular process, but be aware that by applauding the outcome you’re legitimizing the process. I, too, am glad the guy gets to keep his house – but I am horrified by the thought that now the question as to whether or not you get to keep your house depends on your finding a sympathetic (or bribeable) judge. No, I get to keep what’s mine because FYTW, and that should the end of the argument.

        1. While you are absolutely correct on the details the system is so pregnant with legalism that we have to visibly appreciate the crumbs of positivity that occasionally fall from the table of authoritarianism…. as fucking awful as this reads.

          I am simply relieved that an individual wasn’t stripped naked against his will, ass-lubed with shark grease, and then pooper-fucked by an swarm of grunting casino lawyers and city officials.

        2. I completely agree with what you’re saying and agree in principle.

          However, I think in this case we can look it at as adding a new wrinkle to something like Kelo where even if we are going to say “more tax revenue is better so it’s a justified taking” a stricter scrutiny of whether or not the project will ever be built and provide this mythical revenue is required.

          So, in that way, it’s more like taking the experience of what eventually happened after the Kelo ruling and spending more time evaluating that (which, of course, is ridiculous because what do judges know about project viability) and is not just contradicting it.

  5. Well this should make for a nice long hard SHUT THE FUCK UP, BITCH! dildo for Chris Christie’s sophomoric pooper.

    1. I kinda think Christie’s pooper is at least a junior, but I’ll defer to your superior wisdom.

      1. You practically broke Reason. I think that qualifies as superior.

        1. Good morning augmented hi speed mammal, your extreme early arrival to the threads is a bit disconcerting

          1. Good morning, Sir Lizard. I will be departing for jaunt soon but fell prey to the call of the wilds momentarily.

  6. I hated “American hustle” especially the fact that they tried to paint Jeremy Renner as some sort of good guy. He was a fucking parasite that was dealing with mobsters to get over on the tax payers. God I hated that movie.

    1. I couldn’t exactly articulate why I didn’t like that movie. This may be one reason.

      1. That and there are no relatable characters. They’re all scum bags. The only acceptable ending is lining all the characters up along an open grave and put a small caliber bullet in the back of each and every one of their skulls.

        1. What about Wolf of Wall Street? Not a single respectable or very relatable character, but damn if I didn’t have some fun watching it.

          1. I haven’t seen it. I like Leo in general so maybe I’ll check it out.

          2. Who doesn’t have fun doing lines of coke off a hooker’s ass?

        2. I think you just illuminated why I don’t like Pulp Fiction.

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