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Friday, June 7, 2013

Rails To Trails Litigation Against Federal Government To Move Forward With Help Of Dedicated Legal Team & Conservatives Of The Upstate

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. 
                         ~ 5th Amendment, The Constitution Of United States Of America
On May 8, 2013 law firm Arent Fox LLP filed a class action complaint in Campbell v. United States on behalf of property owners in Pickens County, South Carolina for a “rails to trails” case involving a railroad easement approximately 8.5 miles long in a corridor between Easley and Pickens.

Complex Litigation partner Thor Hearne is leading a team from Arent-Fox that represents more than 50 land owners in the class action, with more expected to join.

Nearly 100 landowners near the track are also opposed to the trail according to signed petitions.

Currently, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) has issued an amended abandonment order to work with SCDHEC because of suspected environmental contamination.

According to STB case # 1097x … the railroad is required to work with state and federal environmental agencies to determine if the track is environmentally safe and the track to be developed would be sound for close contact public usage.

A copy of the complaint filed in the US Court of Federal Claims can be found here [PDF].
Lead attorney Hearne states: 
“Recreational trails are a great public amenity, but when private owners’ property is taken by the government for a public use, the Constitution requires the federal government to pay those private owners ‘just compensation'. The Supreme Court has said that this responsibility ‘lies at the doorstep of the federal government,’ and this case presents an opportunity for private landowners in Pickens County to be fairly compensated for their property.”
The plaintiffs, all residents of Pickens County living along the abandoned "Doodle line" of track that runs between the cities of Pickens, SC and Easley, SC are arguing that the creation of a new easement for a future railroad corridor qualifies as a taking of property for which the 5th Amendment requires that the United States pay “just compensation” to all of the involved property owners.

Earlier this year, Hearne helped plaintiffs in Rogers v. United States [PDF] secure a financial settlement of $6.5 million with the US Department of Justice more than three years after the US Court of Federal Claims ruled the government must provide compensation under the 5th Amendment.

In April of this year … Hearne secured a win from the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit when it reversed a lower court decision in Ladd v. United States [PDF] and ruled that the six-year statute of limitations applicable in 5th Amendment takings claims against the federal government is suspended when the accrual of the claim is “inherently unknowable.” As a result, the court cleared the way for property owners in “rails to trails” cases to be justly compensated when the Surface Transportation Board (STB)* converts an otherwise abandoned railroad on their land into a new federal rail-trail easement.

Congress enacted the National Trails System Act to preserve shrinking rail trackage by converting unused rights-of-way to recreational trails. The Justice Department is currently handling more than 10,000 claims, according to a report released that involve lines in at least 33 states. The National Law Journal previously reported that trails cases make up the fastest-growing area of 5th Amendment “takings” litigation against the federal government.

Hearne is currently litigating more than a dozen “rails to trails” cases across the country.

Pickens County Rails To Trails Litigation / United States Court Of Federal Claims [PDF]

* The STB home page is laid out very peculiar … Scroll down to see searchable content.

Recent developments week of June 1, 2013 …

Without apparent authorization and against order from the SC Department Of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC) until matters are resolved … grading work and removal of the track has begun.

* Photo by Jim McDonald / Arial Crossing / Near Arial St & Church St in Pickens, SC

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