Gearing Up for Battle

The frontlines against eminent domain abuse in Florida have become even stronger, according to dozens of activists who attended the Castle Coalition’s workshop in West Palm Beach this weekend. Home and small business owners from all across the Sunshine State joined together with one another for an intensive one-day training session. The Castle Coalition’s regional conference, “From Hardship to Victory: Strategies for Winning the Fight to Stop Eminent Domain Abuse,” gave ordinary citizens the tools to defeat eminent domain for private gain—and to do so in their home states for free.

“The conference provided hands-on advice about how to fight eminent domain abuse,” said Frank Bubb, a retired attorney currently residing in Boca Raton.

Anne Castro, a community activist fighting eminent domain for private profit in Dania Beach, said, “The speakers’ presentations provided expert information and suggestions that can be used as tools in the fight against abusive eminent domain.”

Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Dana Berliner, who helped litigate Kelo v. City of New London before the U.S. Supreme Court, provided participants with an overview on the history of eminent domain and an in-depth presentation on preparing for legal action. Steven Anderson, coordinator of the Castle Coalition, taught activists how to build a grassroots coalition, and how to take the fight beyond one’s community; he underscored innovative strategies such as referenda and initiatives that activists have historically used successfully to defeat abusive condemnations outside of the courtroom. IJ Director of Communications Lisa Knepper provided participants with effective media-relations strategies, which are often the means by which people can bring attention to their disputes and garner public support.

Many of the conference’s participants reside in Florida cities that are among the worst abusers of eminent domain in the nation. Home and business owners from Riviera Beach showed up in force, ready to bolster their fight against the City’s infamous redevelopment plan that threatens to uproot more than 5,000 residents in the predominantly African-American, working-class community. Several activists from Boynton Beach, Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Lake Worth and Dania Beach also showed up in strong numbers.

Participants ranged from seasoned activists to people who have just joined the fight against eminent domain abuse. The Castle Coalition conference is designed to help everyone from the most experienced warrior to concerned citizens new to the issue.

Martha Babson, who implemented innovative and effective approaches to challenge Riviera Beach’s redevelopment plan, said that even though she reluctantly sold her home under the threat of eminent domain, she’s “reenergized” to bring the battle far beyond Riviera Beach. “Now to the state level,” she said.

Brenda Frank, a realtor, said, “I feel more confident that an individual can make a difference.”

And that’s exactly what is happening across Florida and the rest of the nation. In Florida, a number of legislative proposals that would curb eminent domain abuse are making their way through the state legislature and local legislatures. The Castle Coalition is keeping a close eye on legislation across the United States, and working with legislators and concerned citizens to craft laws that will do what the U.S. Supreme Court failed to do in Kelo: protect people’s homes and businesses from being taken by the government and given to other private parties.

Over the past two months, the Castle Coalition has held conferences in New Jersey, Arizona, Washington and Florida. In the upcoming months, the Castle Coalition will continue to bring “From Hardship to Victory” to hotspots across the nation, including California, Ohio and Missouri.

To find out how you can attend a Castle Coalition regional conference, contact Christina Walsh at