January 19, 2006

Judge Orders Eminent Domain Rip-Off -- Takes 105 Acres For $1.00

This must not stand! If you thought the Kelo decision was obscene, wait until you read this.

And it is happening literally just down the road from me -- I pass the property on a daily basis during the last leg of my drive home from work.

Man awarded $1 for 105 acres Port condemned

For years, Seabrook residents have said building the Bayport container facility north of town would hurt property values.

They might be surprised at how much one man got for his tract of land - $1 for 105 acres.

Pasadena land owner Glenn Seureau, II, thinks he was robbed of his by the Port of Houston Authority. He plans to continue an uphill battle with the Port until he is paid fair market value for the land.

One civil court judge, on the other hand, seems to think $1 is compensation enough for Seureau's land, located just north of Seabrook.

Seureau fought for nearly three years to protect his property, in his family for more than 150 years, from the Port's power of eminent domain, only to lose his case in May of last year in the court of Harris County Civil Court Judge Lynn Bradshaw-Hull.

The judge ruled that having paid Seureau $1, the Port now owns the fee simple title to the property. Seureau was also ordered to give back the Port's previous payment of more than $1.9 million at 5.75 percent interest and pay the Port's court costs at the same interest rate.

Seureau has appealed the ruling, and he and his attorneys are currently in negotiations with the Port.

Port officials declined to comment on the case, but confirmed that they are working with Seureau to reach an agreement.

The conflict began in September 2002, when a special commission held a hearing regarding the Port's request to condemn Seureau's land. Seureau did not attend the hearing, and the commission ordered the Port to pay him approximately $1.9 million for the property.

The Port deposited the funds into the registry of the court, taking constructive possession of the land, but Seureau refused to take the money or relinquish the title to the property.

"I didn't think (the Port) had the right to take the property," he said, adding that the Port's need for the land seems to be based on private rather than public interests.

The Port plans to build a portion of the Houston Cruise Terminal on the property.

Seureau also believes $1.9 million is less than the market value for the land, which he had planned to develop with multi-family residences.

He was later advised by an attorney that he did not have the right to contest eminent domain and withdrew the $1.9 million to pay for further appeals regarding the market value of his land.

The Port brought Seureau to Bradshaw-Hull's court on May 16, 2005 to obtain the fee simple title that Seureau had withheld until that point.

On May 17, the judge excluded the testimony of both Seureau and his only expert witness, Louis Smith, saying that neither man could provide evidence that was relevant or reliable regarding the market value of Seureau's land.

According to court documents, the judge's final ruling was based on a lack of evidence to support Seureau's argument.

Seureau also made a motion to exclude the testimony of one of the Port's expert witnesses, Matthew Deal. The court denied that motion.

Seureau, who lives in his 180-year-old family home next door to the recently condemned property, said that although he is not familiar with the judge's intentions, he sees Bradshaw-Hull's ruling as a "punishment" for trying to challenge the Port.

"I was forced to settle for less than market value," he said.

Bradshaw-Hull declined to comment on the case since it is on appeal.

So let's get this straight -- the judge allowed no testimony on the value of the land -- and then awarded an absurdly low value because there was no evidence in support of the land's value. Never mind that we know that the land was considered to be worth at least $1.9 million by the special commission. And she added insult to injury by ordering the victim of her obscene ruling to pay back all money he received with interest, plus legal fees to the publicly-owned Port -- which means he is paying the Port for the privilege of having his land stolen.

Notice, please, that this story is covered only by the local "tossed on the lawn" paper, not any of the major media like the Chronicle or the local television stations, despite teh outrageous nature of this ruling. They all made money hand over fist during the bond election a few years ago, as the Port spent tax money selling this expansion to the voters -- and it still runs propaganda ads about how great it is for the community. I guess they don't want to see that cash cow dry up.

Oh, and by the way, Judge Bradshaw-Hull (email here) is running for re-election on the GOP ballot.

But Bradshaw-Hull has competition from Linda Storey in the race for judge of Harris County Court at Law 3. Assuming she is qualified, I will likely give my endorsement her way.

Let us hope that this decision does not stand -- and that this judge is off the bench..

TRACKBACK TO: Stop the ACLU, Publius Rendevous, Caos Blog, Right Wing Nation, Adam's Blog, Uncooperative Blogger, Linkfest Haven, Bullwinkle Blog, TMH Bacon Bits, Stuck On Stupid, third world country, Point Five, Conservative Cat, Samantha Burns, imagine kitty, Wizbang, Basil's Blog, Blogs For Bush

» Searchlight Crusade links with: More Eminent Domain Thievery
» Diggers Realm links with: Man's 105 Acres Stolen Using Eminent Domain For $1, Ordered To Pay $1.9 Million
» links with: Kelo Update: I Don’t Want to Believe This
» Argghhh! The Home Of Two Of Jonah's Military Guys.. links with: H&I fires 22 Jan 06

|| Greg, 09:05 PM || Permalink || Comments (7) || Comments || TrackBacks (4) ||

Trackback Information for Judge Orders Eminent Domain Rip-Off -- Takes 105 Acres For $1.00

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference 'Judge Orders Eminent Domain Rip-Off -- Takes 105 Acres For $1.00'.

» Searchlight Crusade links with: More Eminent Domain Thievery, on January 20, 2006, 09:41 AM
Excerpt: Rhymes with Right notes an abuse of eminent domail even more abusive than Kelo vs. New London. A man in his Texas city was forced to sell a 105 acre parcel to the Port of Ho...

» Diggers Realm links with: Man's 105 Acres Stolen Using Eminent Domain For $1, Ordered To Pay $1.9 Million, on January 20, 2006, 04:40 PM
Excerpt: The eminent domain abuse continues, this time in Houston. Glenn Seureau had his property taken from him via having it "condemned" so that the Houston port could build the Houston Cruise Terminal. He initially was given $1.9 million for the...

» links with: Kelo Update: I Don’t Want to Believe This, on January 21, 2006, 11:26 AM
Excerpt: State entity acquires 105 acres for $1? You would think that has to be one of those “there has to be more to this” stories. But I don’t see how — yet (HT Rhymes with Right, who lives in the area): For years, Seabrook reside...

» Argghhh! The Home Of Two Of Jonah's Military Guys.. links with: H&I fires 22 Jan 06, on January 22, 2006, 08:21 AM
Excerpt: Open post for those with something to share. New, complete posts come in below. Note: If trackbacking, please acknowledge this post in your post. That's only polite. You're advertising here, we should get an ad at your place... Code Pink,...

Comments on Judge Orders Eminent Domain Rip-Off -- Takes 105 Acres For $1.00

The guy took the $1.9M and then went *back* on the deal?? Not real clear on HOW or WHY he got that money and they want it back...

If he took $1.9M and wants more, he was a bad negotiator... If he signed a contract, he's pretty much screwed isn't he??

|| Posted by TexasFred, January 19, 2006 09:51 PM ||

This is obscene. Does the judge own a house? I'm thinking of putting up a hotel...

|| Posted by Ed Minchau, January 19, 2006 09:52 PM ||

Not wuite what happened -- he was awarded the $1.9 million when the land was taken, but contested the valuation (which he claimed was low).

His major asset was the land -- so he used the money awarded him in the original proceeding to take teh next appeallate step.

The result was that he had it all taken from him.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, January 19, 2006 09:57 PM ||

Yeah, I just re-read the thing and saw that.. His use of that money may be his downfall... They may have made an *undervalued* offer but I don't think he had any right to USE the money if he had no intention of accepting the offer...

I think he has screwed himself... I hate it too, but he may be in very deep poop...

|| Posted by TexasFred, January 19, 2006 10:04 PM ||

It can be argued that, since the $1.9 million was the state's offer, he had no reason to expect to lose any of it, and every reason to expect it was the very minimum he would ever receive. Therefore, though withdrawing part of the money could constitute acceptance.

Furthermore, he's battling the state, which is backed by virtually unlimited resources -- as I put it, "the full faith and credit of the taxpayer's wallet." That puts a greater strain on his ability to litigate, so a reasonable person could see why he had to tap into the initial award.

But as someone on the LLP list pointed out (I apologize, his name escapes me), "what smacks of tyranny" is what this twit of a judge did. Excluding Seureur's and his witness' testimony, yet not excluding testimony from a state witness? I hope this bias can be sufficient grounds for an appeal.

|| Posted by Perry Eidelbus, January 20, 2006 11:51 AM ||

Eminent Domain law is filled with all kinds of conflicts which make it easier for backdoor deals. Payoff of judges for one. Local politicians fill their pockets by getting kickbacks from relatives doing odd jobs on the deal. (property inspection, demolition subcontracting, etc...)

I've seen it first hand near my home.

It is such a scam.

|| Posted by prying1, January 21, 2006 08:58 AM ||

Looks like this judge just lost her spot on the bench.

Given how close it was (Linda Storey won 50.5% to 49.5%), this decision may very well have outraged enough people to cost her the election.

|| Posted by Tim, March 8, 2006 08:42 AM ||
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» Searchlight Crusade links with: More Eminent Domain Thievery
» Diggers Realm links with: Man's 105 Acres Stolen Using Eminent Domain For $1, Ordered To Pay $1.9 Million
» links with: Kelo Update: I Don’t Want to Believe This
» Argghhh! The Home Of Two Of Jonah's Military Guys.. links with: H&I fires 22 Jan 06

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