'Show me' eminent domain in Missouri

In a significant case, widely anticipated by the eminent domain bar, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling which would have blocked communities from using eminent domain for private development supported by tax concessions on March 18, 2008. Meanwhile, the city has attacked the defendants in the press for defending themselves in the courts when the city condemned their property, as reported by Timothy Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF). On April 1, 2008, The Pacific Legal Foundation filed a motion for reconsideration with the Missouri Supreme Court.

The issue in the case was whether a provision in the Missouri Constitution that allows so- called charter cities to use eminent domain also prevents non-charter cities from taking private property.  A charter city is defined as a municipalilty which had a minimum of 5,000 people at the time of
its incorporation and whose residents approved a local constitution.

The case, City of Arnold v. Tourkakis, was brought to the court by Dr. Homer Tourkakis, a dentist who practices in the city of Arnold, Missouri. Tourkakis challenged Arnold’s attempt to seize his property through eminent domain proceedings. In a 6-1 decision written by the Hon. Mary Rhodes Russell, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Arnold, saying the state constitution gives the legislature the power to allow cities to use the power of eminent domain for redevelopment purposes. The court agreed with Arnold, and reversed the lower court.

The Supreme Court said that condemnation is authorized to Arnold for redevelopment of blighted areas under the Tax Increment Financing Act (TIF). The lower court sitting in Jefferson County had distinguished Arnold from constitutionally charter cities, or third-class cities,  with regards to the use of eminent domain to achieve economic development.  There are 37 charter cities in Missouri.

PLF is petitioning the Court for clarification on the procedures and rules which should be followed when the  eminent domain case proceeds in the trial court on remand because the TIF Act does not specify any procedures. Read the PLF's motion for rehearing to the Missouri Supreme Court.

The Court had ruled that the TIF Act grants a third-class city such as Arnold the power of eminent domain. However, there is no reference in the Act to any statute governing the procedures to be followed if an eminent domain case is filed. If there is no statutory procedural reference in the Act, petitioners argue that Tourkakis will be denied due process in any ensuing eminent domain case:

Due process requires that the Tourkakises know beforehand what rules will
apply to their case. Without such knowledge, they will not be afforded the adequate
hearing to which they are entitled. Cf. Goe v. City of Mexico, 64 S.W.3d 836, 840
(Mo. Ct. App. 2001).