Monthly Archives: April 2018

Monkey Business at the 9th Circuit

From time to time, we take note — usually favorably — of the doings of our fellow blogger Robert Thomas the keeper of the blog. So we are pleased to do it again by joining in his criticism of the federal courts, particularly the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for wasting its time with utter tomfoolery like deciding whether animals can own copyrights. Short answer: they can’t, but what they can do and have done is to devote their time and resources to this utterly frivolous inquiry. Here is Thomas’ post on this subject

April 25, 2018

9th Cir: “Ape Shall Not Sue Ape!” Court Has Time For Silly Monkey Selfie Case, But Not For Takings

“Here’s the not unexpected decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a case we’ve been following (sort of). It should never have gotten this far, even as the “plaintiffs” raise the specter of a cert petition.

Here’s the not unexpected decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit:

“We say again: the federal courts seem to have time for this brand of nonsense, but when it comes to land use and takings cases, they won’t be “super zoning boards of appeals,” and almost always refuse to give them the time of day. At least PETA didn’t make a takings claim and further hose up the law.

“Once again, Dr. Zaius could not be reached for comment.

“Rock on, Naruto.”


To this, we should add our own inquiry: if animals can’t hold copyrights nor sue to protect their rights in them, then what about all those cases with nonsensical captions like Arizona Grey Squirrel v. Somebodyorother in which the same court, with what purports to be a straight face, discourses on environmental rights of plaintiff-squirrels and such? So can we now call those “squirrely opinions”?

Afterthought: For the now famous selfie portrait of the plaintiff-monkey, go to Mr. Roberts’ blog and see today’s post. Enjoy!

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Fail, Fail Again

Don’t miss the LA Times story by Angel Jennings, L.A. County Wants to Take Blighted Property, April 23, 2018, at p. B1. It tells the story of a land owner who stands to win our “lucky Pierre” award for being the subject of not one, but two eminent domain actions seeking to take his large plot of land that has been sitting vacant since the 2005 riots, and which — according to its owner — was blighted by the city’s activities, so it became an invitation to homeless folks’ encampments, and generally not what comes to mind when you speak of an area to be redeveloped with a mall, entertainment facilities, a restaurant, etc.

Long story short, the owner actually broke ground 2005, for a project of his own. But nothing came of it. He blames the city for this result. Anyway, nothing came of the city’s intention to take and redevelop the place, because California, in a rare stroke of common sense abolished redevelopment, whereupon the condemnation had to be abandoned (and attorneys’ fees and damages totaling $5.2 million paid to the owner).

Now, starting in 2017, the county filed another condemnation action seeking to do what the city couldn’t, and wants to take the property for assorted public uses like stores, entertainment facilities and — are you ready? — a facility for NASA lectures. The owner is resisting the taking on a variety of grounds, and the fight is on. In the meantime the subject area is known to local cops as “death alley” because of its high homicide rate.

We can’t wait to see how it all turns out. Stay tuned. And do read that lengthy LA Times piece cited above.

Follow up: The blog reports that the Los Angeles Superior Court (trial court) has ruled in favor of the County’s right to take. Sahra Suleiman, County Wins Control of Vermont/Manchester Lots in Superior Court Ruling, April 26, 2018. So the condemnation can now proceed to its next stage which is the determination by a jury of the “just compensation” payable to the owner. We can’t wait.

Other than these hard facts, the just cited post is a classic redevelopment puff piece that holds out the hope of the equivalent of urban sugar plum fairies. And a fine piece of PR BS it is. Among other things it says that the process of eminent domain is subject to “tight constraints” — no, we are not making it up — and in noting how the area was devastated by 1990s riots, it uses the term “unrest.” It doesn’t get any more politically correct than that.

Of course, as the proverb goes, there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip, so what will actually be built on this site, if anything, is yet to be seen. Stay tuned!

George Will Reviews New Movie About the Kelo Eminent Domain Case

We live in an era of the visual, with readership declining and people increasingly getting their information from a screen — mostly a little computer screen, even though big movie screens are still hanging in there. So we were glad to learn that a movie about the wretched Kelo case has been made and is now being distributed. The national columnist George Will has joined in with a column reviewing it (link at the end of this post).

Kelo v. New London was the Connecticut eminent domain case in which the city of New London took an entire lower middle class neighborhood in order to turn it over to a private developer on a long-term lease (for a dollar per year). That developer was supposed to redevelop it into a higher class area of shops, classy condos and a marina, all serving well paid professional employees of a nearby research facility of the Pfizer company, the pharmaceutical biggie. The case eventually wound up in the US Supreme Court which, by a 5 to 4 vote sided with the city, over sharp dissents by Justices O’Connor and Thomas.

However, the project turned out to be a total failure, and the supposedly thoroughly vetted city plans turned out to be so much hot air. After an unblighted 92-acre waterfront neighborhood was destroyed, displacing its unoffending inhabitants, nothing was built on the site. Pfizer, which was to be the beneficiary of the economic revival flowing from the project, exhausted the tax benefits it got from the city, and instead of adding jobs as promised, moved out of New London, lock, stock and barrel. The site of the redevelopment project is now a vacant, trash-strewn wasteland. This caper cost the city and state some $100 million with nothing to show for it, except a tidal wave of popular revulsion that swept the country. The envisioned tax gains turned into losses, thus illustrating the line of the late California Court of Appeal Justice, Macklin Fleming, who once observed that when it comes to redevelopment, the bigger economic pie the project promoters tout as coming to all, turns into pie in the sky.

The movie’s title, like that of the book on which it is based is The Little Pink House
The link to George Will’s review is:

For a review of this film by Variety, go to:

Lowball Watch — Pennsylvania

The York Daily Record of April 17, 2018, reports that a York jury awarded $1.25 million for the taking of the old York County Prison (now in private hands), when the York Redevelopment Agency took it by eminent domain. The commissioners (called “Viewers” in Pennsylvania) awarded $65,000, plus $4000 in attorneys fees. But when the case went to trial, the jury awarded $1.25 million, which was affirmed on appeal, as we reported on March 17, 2018. It took the jury only 30 minutes to reach its conclusion.

The redevelopment agency is seeking review by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court which — like most supreme courts — is not required to review the affirmance on the merits. In the meantime, interest on the award is running at the rate of $188 per day. Stay tuned.

Dylan Siegelbaum, As Interest Mounts, RDA Appeals $1.25M Award for Old York County Prison, April 17, 2018. See

The Public Housing Tragedy

We recommend to our readers that they take a look at a New York Times article Bleak Housing which is a book review of HIGH-RISERS, by Richard Rothstein, appearing in the New York Times Book Section of April 15, 2018, at p. 21. It’s the story of the construction, decline and eventual fall — figuratively and literally — of the Chicago Cabrini-Green public housing project, a massive 20-story apartment building that with time became such a hellhole that it had to be demolished.

We have only read the NY Times book review, but that strikes us as enough. There is ample material there to support the conclusion that the Cabrini-Green project was a cautionary tale of the tragedy that results when good intentions meet unintended side effects, and an illustration of why government projects fail so often. It brings to mind Brendan Behan’s cynical line that “I cannot conceive of a human condition so wretched that the appearance of a policeman couldn’t make worse.” Substitute the word “government functionaries” for “policeman” and you got it, although the police have a good excuse because they are called upon to make split second decisions under often dangerous circumstances, while the city housing functionaries can take their time and benefit from the views of expert advisers.

It seems that in the public housing disaster exemplified by the downfall of Cabrini-Green, for every new idea intended to improve things, there was a counter-idea suggesting a rejection of the first idea and the substitution for it of another one whose features undid all the good that the first idea was intended to bring about, and then some.

And of course, much of the public housing disaster was brought about by the unfortunate behavior of the intended beneficiaries of those public projects. That, however is another sad story that we can’t very well get into here without prolonging this post excessively.

But if you have an interest in American urban affairs, do read that book, or at least the Times’ book review of it. Sad but informative.