Federal Court: You Can Fight City Hall and Win
Thursday, July 21, 2011 4:30 pm | By Grant Morgan

Last Wednesday, a Federal Appeals Court in St. Louis held Jim Roos, a local property owner, had the right to paint a large mural on the side of his building, despite city ordinances to the contrary.


What did the 360 square foot sign, which was visible from two interstates, say?


“End Eminent Domain Abuse”

Roos, a member of the Missouri Eminent Domain Abuse Commission, had been fighting the city since 2007, when he painted the sign to protest aggressive land-taking by the city government of St. Louis.

The initial ruling from the district court held that the city ordinance was content-neutral and therefore acceptable on its face, and Mr. Roos’ work was a “classic example” of a sign.


However, the panel of the appeals court found that the ordinance did discriminate based on content, and that it was not supported by a compelling state interest. Thus, Mr. Roos is protected by the first amendment, and the sign may stay up.

This ruling is encouraging for multiple reasons. First, it tells property-owners that city governments may not normally impose content-specific rules on how they can exercise their first amendment rights using their own property. Also, it sends a message to governments that if they try to use local laws to silence activists fighting their abuse of eminent domain, courts will intervene.

Either way, this ruling is a victory for liberty.

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“Battle for Brooklyn” Exposes Eminent Domain Abuse
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 10:00 am | By Grant Morgan

After earning critical praise on the film festival circuit, the documentary Battle for Brooklyn has opened in select theaters in New York City.

The documentary details the ongoing fight against eminent domain abuse in New York. Specifically, it looks at the fight between developer Bruce Ratner, backed by his good friend Mayor Bloomberg, and local property-owners in Brooklyn. The film focuses particularly on graphic designer Daniel Goldstein, and his seven-year fight to retain his home against the powers of big business supported by the state.


As the Property Rights Alliance has previously noted, the case described in the film represents one of the most egregious abuses of eminent domain power, and is part of a pattern of abuse of this power by the state and city governments of New York. It among the prime exhibits of the damage being done to the law and to property-owners by the unfortunate Kelo decision. Thankfully, some states have taken notice of the potential for abuse, and have passed legislation to protect property-owners. Hopefully, the attention garnered by this film will aid further progress on this issue.

Battle for Brooklyn tells a compelling story that should be of interest to anyone who cares about their property and rights, or worries about the abuse of government power. We wish directors Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley success in promoting their work.

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and Intellecutal Property
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 9:03 am

Yesterday, PRA sent a letter to Congress and members of the Administration praising the bi-partisan group of Representatives led by Reps. Murphy (D-CT), Coble (R-NC), and Mack (R-CA) for calling on the President to seek the highest standards of IP protections in TPP Negotiations and to use the U.S.-Korea FTA as a model. As negotiations continue on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, PRA urges negotiators to support strong protections for America’s intellectual property that parallels U.S. levels of protection.

The letter states:

The United States’ economy revolves significantly around businesses related to intellectual property. IP intensive industries drive this economy to the tune of $5-5.5 trillion, accounting for over half of all U.S. exports, and employing nearly 19 million workers. These are high wage jobs that are ensured and protected due to IP protections that allow for stability in the industry.

The pharmaceutical industry, in particular relies on strong IP protections. The US currently has one of the strongest and fastest growing biotech and pharmaceutical industries in the world. Weakening of IP rights not only is detrimental to the economy, but also puts the public’s health and safety at risk. Drugs being researched and manufactured today have been proven effective against life threatening diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis and diabetes due to reliable patent laws that encourage innovation. Research and development is very expensive, and companies need to have an incentive to keep inventing life-saving drugs. Any trade agreement negotiated by the United States must include an IP chapter that provides for an adequate data protection period in order for research companies to recoup the costs of research and development.

The rest of the world looks to the U.S. as a model for property rights protections and we should continue to require strong IP provisions as a key part of negotiating free trade agreements. Intellectual property rights can boost trade and foreign direct investment not only in the U.S. but in the developing world as well. The United States needs to send a clear message to our trading partners that we are serious about protecting our creators and innovators and at the same time promoting prosperity around the world. On behalf of the property rights community, we thank you for your leadership on this issue and look forward to your continued efforts.

Click here for a pdf version of the letter.


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