Honolulu officials targeting properties under eminent domain law asserted itself with an aggressive show of power against a local real estate broker, bulldozing the broker's protest signs three years after seizing her property.
Choon James has bought and sold real estate in Hawaii for two decades. In 2010 the city of Honolulu decided to seize property that she owned for almost 10 years in order to build a behemoth fire station in the rural town of Hauula.
James took action by putting up signs reading “Eminent Domain Abuse: Who’s Next?” and “YouTube Eminent Domain Abuse—Hawaii.” The successful broker is still fighting the seizure of her properties in court, according to Forbes.
Three years after putting them up, city officials came on to Choon’s property—which it insisted was not hers—and seized and damaged the signs before writing her up for trespassing. Choon asserted her right to free speech by putting up three new signs, which were once again seized by the city. In October, city employees rolled in with police cars and a bulldozer and leveled the newest set of signs to the ground.
The city of Honolulu also faces a suit by the (De)Occupy Honolulu protest movement, which claims that the city’s stored property ordinance was unconstitutional. The ordinance states that property can be seized 24 hours after it’s been tagged with a violation notice. The federal suit alleges that the city government violated the organization's right to free speech by raiding the tents of its downtown protest camp.
James’ suit also involves the stored property ordinance in addition to free speech violations.
Higher courts have routinely struck down state and local governments’ attempts to curtail free speech in eminent domain cases. The Institute for Justice has won several victories for citizens across the country protesting eminent domain laws.