Judge rules against city in $1.95 million takings case news muskogeephoenix.com gas variables pogil answers

The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed that ruling and remanded the case for a second trial, which began almost a year ago on April 19. The sole issue at trial was whether the city’s acts resulted with an unconstitutional taking, which Golden determined had occurred when the city failed to conduct a hearing to determine whether condemnation was needed.

"The city was justified in determining that the subject property was dilapidated and in need of condemnation proceedings," Golden states in the eight-page ruling. "However, the Court further finds the notice requirements" of state law "are stricter than the notice requirements under the International Property Maintenance Code, and that the property owners were denied due process …, (and) the City’s actions constituted a taking of private property without due process."

David E. Anderson, who represents the Vaughns and petitioners in two similar cases, said "the outcome of this lawsuit comes as no surprise." Anderson based his assessment on the judges’ recognition of a city ordinance that requires the application of "stricter provisions favoring due process to the citizen" when the deprivation of property rights is at issue.

"I don’t know what will happen with the potential for another round of appeals," Anderson said, noting two previous trips to state appellate courts before Golden rendered his most recent ruling. "I am hoping this could be resolved — all of these cases — fairly quickly."

City Attorney Roy Tucker said any decision about a third appeal is one that will be made after consulting with the lawyer hired to represent the city and its elected officials. Tucker said in addition, there may be a need to address city ordinances the judge cited as the basis of his ruling.

"I think it is fair to say we are disappointed with the judge’s ruling," Tucker said. "The case is sadly far from from over, but we want to do what is right within the confines of the law, so determining our options will be the first thing we do, and then we will move forward on the other aspects of the case and, of course, the others that will be coming down, as well."

Anderson said the legal arguments he advanced in the Vaughn case and two similar cases "are consistent with half a century of Supreme Court rulings as well as with a Supreme Court writ issued in this very case." The city’s actions, he said, constituted “dominion and control” over the property at issue and interfered with his clients’ use and enjoyment of that property.

The issue of damages in the Vaughn case and two others was resolved before trial after the city failed to file a timely objection to an appraisal that set the value of damage to real and personal property at more than $1.95 million. The city of Muskogee faces the prospect of judgments worth another $1.81 million if similar verdicts are reached in two "companion cases" that sat dormant while the Vaughn case was tried.

If Golden’s ruling stands, another issue that likely will be contested is the matter of interest on the judgment for damages and attorney fees. Anderson said inverse condemnation laws provide for post-taking interest. Such interest, he said, would accumulate from the time the taking occurred — about 12 years ago.

Anderson distinguished post-taking interest from prejudgment interest — Tucker described the latter as "minuscule" when compared with the 6.5 percent set this year for post-judgment claims. Anderson said inverse condemnation lawsuits are described by statute as "special proceedings" with "very peculiar and very specific rules" that differ from general civil litigation.

"The position I have taken on behalf of these petitioners in all of these cases is completely consistent with decades of state law," Anderson said. "There is a pretty hefty rate of interest that dates back to the time when the government actor actually takes the private property."