Eminent Domain

City Claims Binding Restrictions on Eminent Domain Are Merely 'Guidelines'

That Pirates of the Caribbean logic did not sit well with the Georgia Supreme Court.


Capt. Barbossa

There is a scene in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie where a captain is accused of violating the much vaunted "Pirate's Code." He responds that the code is "more what'd you call 'guidelines' than actual rules."

Someone from the city of Marietta, Georgia, must have been taking notes, because the town just made essentially the same argument in a case before the state Supreme Court.

At issue was whether the City of Marietta had violated the state's 2006 "Landowner's Bill of Rights" when it attempted to seize Ray Summerour's grocery store to expand an adjacent public park. Summerour, who had owned the store for a quarter century, claimed that the local government failed to provide him with a timely justification for the city's valuation of his land when it first tried to purchase his property. The 2006 law requires such an appraisal.

The city copped to violating the provision. But the law's strictures, it argued, were "merely suggested guidelines for condemnations, which are not mandatory or, at the least, judicially enforceable." Since the introductory language in the Landowner's Bill of Rights says the law is to be followed "to the greatest extent practicable," the city said, that meant that the statute was entirely voluntary.

Yesterday the Georgia Supreme Court responded with a collective eyeroll, ruling that if the basic guarantees included in the Landowner's Bill of Rights were "as the City urges, entirely optional, the protective function of the Act as a whole would be impaired significantly."

The Court also noted that the city's focus on the word "practicable" would have made Brown v. Board of Education voluntary as well, since it required desegregation to be done "as soon as practicable."

"It's been kinda like a long, hard ordeal. The main thing is from this point on nobody will have to go through what I went through," Summerour told the Atlanta Constitution-Journal after Monday's decision.

That Summerour had to go through the ordeal in the first place is a scandal, given that the entire purpose of the Landowner's Bill of Rights was to create explicit and binding restrictions on the government's ability to take citizens' property without their consent.

The law was passed in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous 2005 Kelo decision, which allowed the city of New London, Connecticut, to seize a house, to demolish it, and hand the property over the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. In the aftermath of the decision, 42 states passed laws restricting eminent domain. When Gov. Sonny Perdue signed Georgia's bill in 2006, he declared it "wrong for your house, your land and your property to be held in jeopardy at the sway of a powerful government." A local governments has to operate with a few more restrictions than a fictional pirate when it wants to go a-plundering.

NEXT: All Local Politics Are Stupid (In Part Because They're National)

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  1. Someone really needs to put the city offices up for sale under eminent domain. I’m sure that the tax collected and generated from it would constitute a greater public good.

  2. He responds that the code is “more what’d you call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.”

    And yet he still honored the rule.

    1. Lawful Evil is still Lawful, after all, even while it’s evil.

      1. Since it is Georgia, maybe they’re Lawful Weevil.

  3. Eminent domain rule violation penalties should include immediate impeachment of any politician who votes for it and criminal penalties for any bureaucrat who executes eminent domain actions in violation of the eminent domain protections.

    Guarantee that cities officials will not make many of these “mistakes” again.

    1. No. I have this sensibility that says the legal system should be considered a betting parlor. You try to abuse the legal system, the penalty should be reversal of what you tried to do. You get whatever the maximum penalty could have been had you gotten away with your scheme.

      Try to frame somebody for murder? life w/o parole, or death, motherfucker.

      Serve an illegal warrant, or execute a legal warrant beyond its legal limit? They get to do the same to you, with no more notice than they got.

      False arrest in public, perp walk and all? I include here acquittals. They get to do the same to you, plus suck up your assets to pay their legal expenses.

      In this case, the appropriate reversal is to seize the politician’s house.

  4. “as the City urges, entirely optional, the protective function of the Act as a whole would be impaired significantly.”

    That’s an interesting way of saying “completely null and void”.

  5. From the linked article:

    “The city originally offered Summerour $85,000 for his property, which is less than an acre, to expand a proposed park. Summerour declined to sell ? he saw the park as a potential boon to business. The city condemned the property in 2014. The purchase price was set by a court at $225,000.”

    1. This illustrates, I think, the wisdom of requiring a detailed appraisal first – it at least somewhat lowers the chance of lowball initial offers which the owner is pressured into accepting in order to stay out of court.

  6. Since the introductory language in the Landowner’s Bill of Rights says the law is to be followed “to the greatest extent practicable,” the city said, that meant that the statute was entirely voluntary.

    Any “reasonable person” would agree!

    1. It’s not an ancient tradition, they’ve just watched Weekend at Bernie’s too many times.

      1. Watching Weekend At Bernie’s 2 is enough to destroy any man’s sanity.

    2. Got to give it to them. They are way more hardcore than me. That smiling women holding a bag that is clearly a dead child is either way more emotionally stable or way more fucked up than me.

    3. I would be curious to see if they have auditory hallucinations of their dead relatives’ voices.

  7. Ok, so we know Christian has seen at least one movie that wasn’t through his pureflix.com subscription.

    1. Or his actuallygoodflix.com subscription.

      1. I bet you watch pureflix.

        1. Hey, they finally made a movie with a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You’re the one lagging behind.

          1. Which movie was that?
            I was forced to watch ‘Gerald’s Game’ the other day. What a piece of shit that was.

            1. That’s on pureflix?

              1. I was assuming you were talking about Netflix in some sort of code. Is Pureflix a real site?

                1. I just checked, and yes it is.

            2. Although I don’t see any reason why Gelard’s Game shouldn’t be on Pureflix. The moral of the story is “kinky sex is scary and dangerous, and Viagara isn’t so great either”. I’m pretty sure they don’t show any nudity either. It’s very vanilla for a film involving a woman handcuffed to a bed.

              1. It’s not supposed to be sexually titillating. Well, maybe to some people who don’t respect the author’s intentions.

                1. I know. If they were going to make a bad film they could have spiced it up by at least making her naked though.

                2. Rule 34 cares not for anyone’s intentions.

        2. I think my jokes make clear that I’m not really as pure as I ought to be.

          Though even if I cleaned up a bit, I still wouldn’t equate pure with didactic and boring.

  8. “It’s been kinda like a long, hard ordeal. The main thing is from this point on nobody will have to go through what I went through,” Summerour told the Atlanta Constitution-Journal after Monday’s decision.

    Ah, that’s so cute. Sure, nobody will have to go through this again.

  9. Speaking of pirates, you all need to watch Black Sails, the series on the Starz network that just finished it’s last season this spring.

    Part actual history of Nassau, part prequel to Treasure Island, and part treatise on the nature of government, it plays like an argument between anarcho capitalists and minarchist libertarians. Especially after Season One when the political philosophy really heats up. It’s one of the few shows where the characters are largely motivated by ideology. Except for Long John Silver who represents a hilariously brilliant combination of pure egoism and Machiavellianism.

    It’s made all the more interesting by the fact that you can’t really tell who is a good guy and who is a bad guy – they all become sympathetic and unsympathetic in turn and all make pretty compelling arguments for their positions. Except in the end, Long John Silver turns out to possibly be the most sympathetic character in the show.

    Seriously, watch it.

    1. I have two problems with Black Sails even as I continue to watch.

      1: Eleanor Guthrie is horribly miscast. When she swears and cusses, it has no believability.

      2. Everyone talks and talks and talks. It wouldn’t be any good without all the talking, but it sometimes just drags and drags and drags. I swear they could cut 10-15 minutes out of each episode if they just cut down, nt eliminated, all the talky talk.

      1. I didn’t like Eleanor Guthrie in the first Season either. They sort that out over time both by changing the role to be somewhat more ladylike and by making her a slightly less central figure. Anne Bonny and Max (the creole prostitute) become more central.

        All that talky talk eventually turns into some great dialogue.
        Also, as noted, it gets better after Season One.

        Long John Silver starts off terrible and slowly becomes one of the best characters in the show.

        1. I’m somewhere in season 4, and still can’t stand Eleanor, although her current position as happenstance governor’s wife seems closer to her personality than pirate chief fence.

          Jack Rackam doesn’t really fit the pirate mold either, especially as captain. But I can buy him as just another misbegotten pirate who’s gotten ahead by knowing what to day when to whom.

          1. You didn’t love Rackham’s line “it is a great gift to be underestimated.” ?

            I thought Rackham’s relative lack of skill as an actual pirate made his character all the more interesting.He’s a charming dandy, a favorite of the ladies, incapable of commanding loyalty from a pirate crew, yet somehow survives on pure charisma and turns out to be a brilliant tactician in battle. (Who knew?)

            There’s a whole other aspect of the show that’s really all about what it takes to be a leader. Flint has it in spite of repeatedly betraying his men’s interests (which is eventually his downfall), Rackham doesn’t in spite of his smarts and charm, and Long John Silver has it most of all.

    2. His fried fish joint is awful though.

  10. RE: City Claims Binding Restrictions on Eminent Domain Are Merely ‘Guidelines’

    Is the US Constitution merely guidelines or suggestions according to our beloved elitist turds enslaving us all?

  11. The main thing is from this point on nobody will have to go through what I went through…

    So there was a punishment meted out to those who put him through it? A deterrent of some kind? Otherwise…

  12. So, not really a landowner’s “Bill of Rights” so much as a list of “best practices” when taking their land?

  13. “if practicable” cost Lee the Battle of Gettysburg.

  14. Why didn’t the court find that the claim that the law is merely a guideline was a frivolous argument, and fine each council member individually?

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