Eminent Domain & Land Use

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Lewis Rice Assists in Win for Midwest Farmers

On Friday, May 29, attorneys from Lewis Rice’s Federal Takings & Rails to Trails Practice participated in a significant victory for Midwest farmers in Caquelin v. United States, a case involving the federal government’s temporary taking of a portion of Iowa landowner Norma Caquelin’s property. Lewis Rice attorneys filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Caquelin in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The amici represented by Lewis Rice included the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, the Illinois Farm Bureau, the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation, and the Kansas Farm Bureau.

Caquelin was prohibited from using a part of her farm when the federal government authorized its conversion into a public recreation hiking and biking trail. She sued, alleging that her land was subject to a railroad-held easement limited to railroad purposes only, and that its conversion into a public recreational trail was not authorized under Iowa law.

The amicus brief filed by Lewis Rice on behalf of the several farm bureau organizations advocated that all landowners must be compensated when the government authorizes a use of their property that is contrary to state law and prevents them from using their land.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision in Caquelin’s favor, upholding the United States Court of Federal Claims ruling that the federal government owed Caquelin compensation for the time it authorized the conversion of her land into a public recreational trail. The Federal Circuit’s ruling aligned with the amici’s position that the Fifth Amendment prohibits the federal government from taking private property for public use without just compensation.

Lewis Rice's federal takings attorneys represent landowners throughout the United States pursuing takings claims against the federal government. One primary focus of the group is representing landowners in what is commonly referred to as rails to trails takings. Attorneys in this group litigate cases in the United States Court of Federal Claims on behalf of those whose property was taken by the federal government pursuant to the National Trails System Act, which authorizes abandoned railroad lines to be converted to public parks. The goal is to obtain compensation from the government for the taking of their land for the public recreational trail.