New Federal Court Complaint Challenges Honolulu Grabbing Anti-Eminent Domain Signs Under "Stored Property" Ordinance
by Robert Thomas, Inverse Condemnation August 14, 2013
Here's the Complaint, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Honolulu in which a windward Oahu property owner challenges the City and County of Honolulu's removal of her protest signs on her property.
The rub? She's protesting the City's condemnation of her property back in 2010. Her complaint alleges that the city "neither owns, manages nor maintains" the property, and that the owner continues to pay both property taxes and for the maintenance of the land. It also alleges there are other signs on nearby property with other messages that have not been touched. This seems similar to other cases in which property owners claim that the government is retaliating against them for their anti-eminent domain messages.
The complaint alleges that a few months ago, the City went on the property and posted a "removal notice" under the City's newly-adopted "Bill 54," an ordinance allowing the City to seize property "stored" on public property provided it "tags" it 24 hours in advance. The following day, the City "pulled up the signs from the ground" and stored them.
The property owner attempted to recover her stored signs, but was refused when she declined to acknowledge that they had been abandoned and were stored on public property. The land is not public property, she asserts, because it has not been finally taken, and she had not abandoned the signs (since they were on her property).
The complaint claims violation of the Fourth Amendment search and seizure provisions, a violation of procedural due process, a First Amendment violation of her speech rights, and others including common law trespass, conversion, trespass to chattels, and replevin (law school Property I flashbacks!). The complaint seeks damages under § 1983, declaratory judgments, and injunctive relief.
The first big issue that we see is whether the City obtained a writ of immediate possession as it often does in eminent domain cases, under either Haw. Rev. Stat. § 101-28 or § 101-29, and what these statutes allow the City to do if it has obtained a writ.
We're naturally going to follow along with this one, folks.
Complaint for Deprivation of Civil Rights, Damages, Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, James v. City and Co...