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Legal Issues

Iowa landowners file lawsuits to suspend eminent domain hearings - May 20, 2016

On Friday, May 20, Bill Hanigan of the Davis Brown Law firm filed separate lawsuits on behalf of Verdell and Marian Johnson, and Marvin and Bonnie Zoch, against Dakota Access Pipeline Company. Both couples are Cherokee County Iowa landowners opposed to the use of eminent domain to seize farmland.

Earlier this spring, the Iowa Utilities Board ruled that Dakota Access has a right to use eminent domain and could proceed with their proposed oil pipeline under certain conditions. Davis Brown argues that the Iowa Utilities Board has misinterpreted Iowa law, specifically the 2006 law designed to protect Iowa farmland.
The lawsuits and related motions were filed today in Cherokee County District Court and ask the court to suspend Dakota Access sponsored condemnation proceedings. The Cherokee County compensation commissioners will begin meeting on June 13 to value the farmland for seizure by Dakota Access.
The lawsuits ask the court to suspend these meetings until it has had an opportunity to consider whether a private company is entitled to use eminent domain to seize farmland. The landowners maintain that Iowa statutes and federal laws prohibit the taking of their property because Dakota Access is a private, interstate pipeline, and not a utility.In April, a separate lawsuit filed in Polk County District Court, argued that that the Iowa Utilities Board made a mistake because Dakota Access is not a utility and therefore should not have the ability to use eminent domain to forcibly access Iowa landowners’ property across the state to build a pipeline.
Mr. Hanigan said, “Landowners have begun receiving notices of the county compensation commission meetings. Unless suspended, these meetings will result in Dakota Access taking possession of the farmland. We are asking Iowa courts to suspend these actions until after a full hearing on the merits of each landowner’s case.” He added, “We expect additional lawsuits will be filed in additional counties during the coming weeks.”
The lawsuits come after the Private Property Rights Coalition hosted informational eminent domain meetings this week for landowners facing condemnation along the Dakota Access Pipeline.