Printed in the January 17, 2014 New Orleans Advocate, the following letter by Stephen Chauvin, LLS Board Member, outlines the murky seizure and transferred ownership of the historic Dixie Brewery.
In 2011, the state of Louisiana took the Dixie Brewery from its owners, Joseph and Kendra Bruno, under its limited authority of eminent domain.
Later, under additionally questionable authority, the state transferred ownership to Veterans Affairs for its use within the new medical district. Within months following the seizure, the owners challenged the legality of the expropriation. The attorneys for the Brunos have multiple grounds based in both state and federal law that this expropriation and transfer is illegal, but they have not yet been allowed to make their argument. Instead, through complex maneuvering by attorneys for the state and a shell game of the court system, the intent appears to be to avoid, confuse and blur the real issue of legal ownership and due process.
In the most recent Civil District Court proceeding Tuesday, the judge continued the previous courts’ avoidance of the most fundamental facts. She refused to halt work on the historic building, including partial demolition.
She mostly justified her ruling due to the inconvenience and cost that would be placed upon the VA and its contractor. The VA, in acting prematurely, is accountable for the result of its irresponsibility. Until proper ownership can be resolved, all work should cease.
Whatever your beliefs about the project, certainly we can all agree property owners deserve to have the merits of their case heard in court before their property is irreparably harmed.
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states our government cannot deprive citizens of “...life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Why is this most basic right being ignored by our courts? And where is the outrage?