Ohio Farm Bureau files brief with U.S. Supreme Court

Ohio Farm Bureau has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the highest court in the land to take on a case to help Ohio landowners.

The case, O’Connor v. Eubanks, takes on the question of whether a state can be sued in federal court for a “takings” claim. Specific to this case, the “taking” is about unclaimed funds that were being held by the state, which did not provide the plaintiff, Mr. O’Connor, interest on those funds when he claimed them.

According to Ohio Farm Bureau Policy Counsel Leah Curtis, this could set a precedent that goes well beyond unclaimed funds.

“We filed this brief in large part because of eminent domain and something called, ‘inverse condemnation,’ which is a claim you can make in court when the government takes your property but doesn’t go through the proper process to do so and doesn’t compensate you,” Curtis said. “Ohio appears to be the only state in the country that lacks an inverse condemnation claim, instead requiring our landowners to go through a much longer and convoluted process. If, instead, the federal courts were open to our landowners, they would have access to an inverse condemnation claim and have more ability to recover attorney fees, which are often difficult to recover in state courts.”

That combination — a streamlined legal process and the opportunity for attorney fees — makes it much more likely that a landowner can afford to bring their case to court and have their rights protected. This is not the first brief Ohio Farm Bureau has filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of eminent domain. Before the verdict in Knick v. Scott Township, it was practically impossible to take any “takings” claim into federal court unless you sued the federal government.

“The decision in that case opened the door to ‘takings’ claims coming into federal court but subsequently, cases that have been decided since then have said it can’t come to federal court if it’s against a state,” Curtis said. “So now we have a situation where if a lower level government, like a county or a township or city takes property, that claim can go to federal court. But if a state takes it, it has to go to state court. Hopefully this new case can make an opportunity to open that federal courthouse door a little wider and let more claims come in.”

Curtis acknowledged that the process could take a little time. It’s unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court would decide before the end of the current session, so a decision to accept the case may be out by fall. If the court accepts the case, the argument will likely be sometime in early 2025, and then a decision would be sometime around the middle of next year.

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