The Clippers and Eminent Domain — It Was Only a Matter of Time

We just knew it was coming sooner or later since there is an eminent domain angle to just about everything, including professional sports franchises. Some jerk named Harvey Wasserman has posted a piece on line urging that in light of Donald Sterling’s racial transgression, the Clippers be taken from him through the use of eminent domain. Click on http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/eminent_domain_the_real_solution_to_scumbag_sports_owners_20140429

Overlooking the little problem that denying a politically incorrect bad guy his First Amendment rights is not exactly what would appear to be the “public use” required by the Constitution as a condition to the exercise of the power of eminent domain, there is the little matter of determining the amount of compensation.

Wasserman allows as how the value of the Clipper franchise should be at least $575 million. So does Wasserman propose to pop that sum — actually more, keep reading — out of his own pocket? Don’t be ridiculous! He wants you and us — the public — to pay, using “other people’s money” as Margaret Thatcher used to say.

Also, wheeler-dealer Wasserman does not appear to be aware of the fact that by California statute, the just compensation payable in eminent domain is the highest price that the subject property would bring in a voluntary, private, arm’s length transaction, disregarding any negative impact on value caused by the contemplated eminent domain action or its imminence.

So don’t just stand there, people. Dig into your piggy banks so Harvey can enjoy watching the Clippers play on your — not his– nickel.

Follow up. CNN brings the dispatch that a clutch of show biz and computer types (including Oprah) are circling over Sterling and the Clippers. CNN even quotes a professor to the effect that the Clippers are worth as  much as $1 billion. We can’t wait to see how it all turns out. We also can’t wait to see who will represent Sterling and the Clippers (which, it say here in the newspaper, are not his personal property but are held by a family trust). When the Raiders’ bacon was in the eminent domain fire, they were represented by San Francisco’s heavy hitter Moses Lasky whose fees came to $2 million (paid by the city), with your faithful servant acting as a humble spear-carrier in the background (and whose fees, alas, were nothing like that, more’s the pity).

Second follow up. If you get the chance, do read the letters to the Editor in today’s N.Y. Times (5/1/14). It would appear that the Great Unwashed — at least what passes for the Great Unwashed in the pages of the N.Y. Times — is not crazy about the treatment meted out to Sterling. Interesting.

Our system forbids the taking away of miscreants’ constitutional rights — like freedom of speech and association and the freedom to own lawful property from even seriously naughty individuals like murderers, rapists, robbers and all those other folks who, after doing awful things are the object of constitutional protection when called to account.* So why is it suddenly de rigeur to inflict all that on Sterling who hasn’t actually done anything; only for being bigoted and stupid, and forgetting the World War II cautionary adage (that he surely is old enough to remember) that loose lips sink ships. So maybe he displayed blameworthy attributes for which he deserves blame but that is not something that justifies stripping him of his constitutional rights.

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* Of course we don’t know what’s in the Sterling/NBA contract. If he agreed to be treated this way, tough cookies. But I hope you won’t mind if we await judgment on that one. Remember, he paid some $12 million for the Clippers, and now stands to collect anywhere from $500+ million to $1 billion, taxable at long-term capital gains rates. Oh, if one could only be “punished” like that.

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