Thursday, January 26, 2006

Camden Redevelopment Plan Thrown Out on Technical Grounds

The City of Camden's redevelopment plan for the Cramer Hill neighborhood was thrown out by a New Jersey Superior Court judge on procedural grounds:

During arguments heard before today's scheduled trial over the use of eminent domain for the project, Judge Michael J. Kassel ruled that two witnesses who testified before a planning board in May 2004 at the adoption of the plan had not been sworn in.

This is the second time the plan has been tossed on procedural grounds.  Why might a judge use such ticky-tacky reasons to avoid hearing the merits?  The plan is very controversial, largely because it will use eminent domain to displace 1,200 families from their homes and turn the property over to a private developer.  To be fair, though, the plan appears to contemplate providing replacement housing for the displaced families.  For those who are interested, the plan is available on-line.

Ben Barros

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The failure to swear in a witness may be a minor procedural error, and deserve the characterization “ticky tacky,” but the larger issue here is whether or not procedural safeguards can be effective in protecting both private owners’ property rights and the interests of the general public in eminent domain cases. In one sense, the significance of this case is that those who simply dismiss procedural safeguards as useless may have to reconsider their position.

Posted by: Tim Iglesias | Jan 27, 2006 11:59:46 AM

True enough. Procedural protections are very important. The failure to swear a witness, though, is easily fixed after the fact -- you can simply swear the witness and ask the witness to adopt the prior testimony. But this case should make everyone take process more seriously.

Posted by: Ben Barros | Jan 27, 2006 12:40:36 PM

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