Atlantic City Rally Seeks to Stop Eminent Domain Abuse

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City Council Scheduled to Vote on Fate of Businesses;
Pinnacle Entertainment Wants Government to Take Land For New Casino

Arlington, Va.—More than twenty years after fleeing communism in Vietnam, where his business was seized and he was imprisoned simply for being successful, Quang Ha faces a similar fate in the country that defines freedom for him. On Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008, the City Council of Atlantic City is scheduled to vote on whether to designate Quang’s property and those of other small property owners in a 24-acre area around the former Sands casino as “in need of redevelopment,” in order to seize the property through eminent domain and transfer it to Pinnacle Entertainment for its new casino. At 4 p.m., Quang Ha will be joined by the Institute for Justice and property owners from across Atlantic City at the City Hall Courtyard, 1301 Bacharach Boulevard, to protest this abuse of eminent domain before the City Council meeting.

“I’m too small. That’s why they’re stepping on me,” said Quang Ha, owner of the Kim Son Jewelry property across from Pinnacle’s lot, after the Planning Board took the first steps to take his land. Quang fled communist Vietnam in the early 1980s, where he was imprisoned for two months because he was “making too much money.” Upon being temporarily released, he fled Hanoi and after 32 days at sea and five months in a refugee camp, he made it to the United States, where he worked hard studying the jewelry trade in hopes of one day owning his own business again. He realized his dream in Atlantic City, where he was able to open his own jewelry store.

“Eminent domain is for public use, things like schools and court houses—not to transfer perfectly fine businesses like Quang Ha’s to rich casino developers for private use,” said Christina Walsh, Director of Community Organization at the Institute for Justice (IJ). IJ is a non-profit public interest law firm that represents property owners nationwide whose homes and businesses are threatened by eminent domain abuse. Walsh said, “Everyone in Atlantic City and across the country should be outraged that the city would even consider seizing someone’s property just to give it to someone else with more money, no less a refugee from communist Vietnam.”

IJ represented Susette Kelo and her neighbors before the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London, as well as the homeowners in Long Branch and others across the country. IJ also successfully represented Vera Coking of Atlantic City, an elderly widow whose home Donald Trump wanted to seize in order to expand his limo parking.

Attorney Bill Potter represented the property owner in Gallenthin v. Borough of Paulsboro before the New Jersey Supreme Court. The court ruled in that case that municipalities cannot condemn private property simply because they deem it “underutilized.” Potter said, “Defenders of property rights keep winning in court, from Paulsboro to Long Branch, but we’re playing whack-a-mole with one town after another as they ignore what the Supreme Court ruled in Gallenthin and in nine or ten cases since then in just one year. It is way past time for the Governor and the Attorney General to start enforcing the Constitution so that private individuals with very limited resources don’t have to do that.”

In March, Quang, the Institute for Justice and others held a press conference where Atlantic City Mayor Scott Evans and Councilmen Marty Small and Steven Moore spoke out against this abuse of eminent domain.