St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District v. Violet Dock Port, Inc., LLC
Violet Dock Port was a privately-owned 75-acre, industrial port facility fronting the Mississippi River in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. The Port was designed and maintained to berth and service ocean-going ships for the U.S. Navy as well as other commercial operations. In 2010, the Port was reinvesting its profits for improvements to facilitate cargo operations. In December of that year, the St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District expropriated the entirety of the Port’s property and improvements, driving the company out of business. The District took the Port to spur economic activity by building a bulk cargo facility to be operated by a separate, private company, Associated Terminals, which would take over the Port’s contracts with the Navy. Associated Terminals was a competitor to Violet Dock Port, with a facility located six river miles away.
The Port objected to the expropriation but lower courts ruled against it. Now in the Louisiana Supreme Court, PLF filed an amicus brief arguing that the constitutional “public use” clause prohibits government entities like the District from exercising eminent domain powers for “economic development” purposes and that the Just Compensation Clause authorizes courts to award compensation in excess of the land’s fair market value when the government condemnation action against private property directly impairs an existing business on condemned land. PLF urges the court to determine the proper measure of compensation based on the unique facts of each case.