April 13, 2007

Maryland's Highest Court Says: We Mean It!

By Maryland's Highest Court Says: We Mean It!

by Timothy Sandefur

This article in the Baltimore Sun explains that the Maryland Court of Appeals has once again struck down an attempt by the city of Baltimore to exploit its quick take authority in ways that deprive property owners of any realistic opportunity in court. Here is the decision. It relies heavily on the Valsamaki decision that you can read about here.

The Court concludes that "the City has the burden…to show the necessity for the immediate possession of property via quick take condemnation. There is a reason for this. Quick-take condemnation results in a deprivation of the constitutionally protected right to property without the more complete due process protections available in a regular condemnation action." The Court found that Baltimore's use of quick take power "deprived [the owner] of an opportunity to fully litigate the issues upon which the City's witnesses were about to testify." Quick take powers exist for cases of "actual existence of an exigency or emergency an such necessity for Immediate possession."

The City had the power to initiate condemnation for approximately a year and a half and chose to wait, apparently until the last minute, and then decided to make use of a type of action that curtailed the property owner's ability to present a defense.

Most importantly, the Court once again reiterated that the "right to private property is a fundamental right." It cited Justice O'Connor's dissent in Kelo, as well as some classic old Supreme Court decisions for the proposition that "the importance and security of private property rights has been extant since the earliest days of the development of this country and is of no less importance today."

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