Norwood, OH Eminent Domain

City of Norwood v. Horney

    IJ clients Carl Jr. and Joy Gamble

In a resounding repudiation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously held that taking the home of Carl and Joy Gamble, and the properties of IJ’s other clients, was unconstitutional. Norwood v. Horney was the first case on the issue of eminent domain’s use for private development to be argued before and decided by a state supreme court in the wake of Kelo.

The case began when developer Jeffrey Anderson decided he wanted to expand his $500,000,000 real estate empire by building a complex of chain stores, condominiums and office space on top of the well-kept neighborhood where Carl and Joy Gamble and other IJ clients lived.

After choosing to bulldoze the Gamble’s neighborhood for his private gain, Anderson initiated and paid for a “study” the Norwood government used to declare the well-kept neighborhood “deteriorating” so it could use eminent domain under Ohio law.  Under the Ohio Constitution and urban renewal laws, eminent domain can only be used to eliminate actual conditions of slum and blight.

A trial court found the neighborhood is not blighted, but agreed with the City the neighborhood is “deteriorating” because, among other reasons, it had “diversity of ownership”-in other words, too many people own their own homes and businesses!  Even the Anderson study admitted not one of the homes or businesses in the area were dilapidated or delinquent on taxes.   Not one.

This was too much for the Ohio Supreme Court.  The Court, interpreting the Ohio Constitution, (1) rejected Kelo’s rationale that takings for economic development are a “public use”; (2) held that courts should apply “heightened scrutiny” to uses of eminent domain; (3) that statutes authorizing the taking of property cannot be vague, and that Norwood’s definition of “deteriorating” failed that test; (4) and that an Ohio law allowing property to be taken and destroyed before an appeal is completed is unconstitutional.

Kelo v. City of New London

Essential Background


Backgrounder: Homeowners & Small Businesses Battle City & Private Developer Over Eminent Domain Abuse

Client Photo

Client Video

Latest Release: Ohio Court Rules Victims of Eminent Domain Abuse Must Be Made Whole (September 25, 2007)

View "Blighted" Norwood Homes

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Launch Release: Norwood Homeowners & Small Businesses Join With IJ To Challenge Bogus "Blight" Designation (September 23, 2003)

Unanimous Decision from the Ohio Supreme Court

IJ reply Brief Filed With Ohio Supreme Court

IJ opening Brief Filed With Ohio Supreme Court

Download “Friends of the Court” File Briefs Urging Ohio Supreme Court To End Eminent Domain Abuse

Supreme Court of Ohio Announcement of Stay for Norwood Residents

Appeals Court Opinion Allowing Condemnation of Private Property

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


IJ complaint filed: September 23, 2003

Condemnation Actions Filed:


November 7, 2003

Court Filed:


Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas



December 12, 2003: Trial court granted city’s request for dismissal of blight challenge



September 3, 2004:  Ohio Court of Appeals ruled that property owners who do not face condemnation actions but still live in a so-called “blighted” neighborhood could bring a lawsuit against the City for constitutional and statutory violations



June 14, 2004:  Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas ruled the City of Norwood, Ohio, abused its discretion in finding the Edwards Road neighborhood “blighted,” but went on to find that the City was justified in using eminent domain to take five homes and businesses in the area so the land can be transferred to Cincinnati-based developer Jeffrey Anderson and his business partners for the Rookwood Exchange project

December 1, 2004: Judge Beth Myers of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas ruled that Rookwood Partners (the development group headed by Jeffrey Anderson), is free to damage or destroy local businessman Joe Horney’s property during his appeal of the City of Norwood’s right to take his property for Rookwood’s private benefit.

January 19, 2005: Hamilton County Court of Appeals rules that Rookwood Partners is free to damage or destroy the Gambles' home and Joe Horney's property during their appeals of the City of Norwood's condemnation of their properties for Rookwood's private benefit.

February 22, 2005: Ohio Supreme Court stays January 19, 2005 decision by Court of Appeals and enjoins Rookwood from destroying or damaging the Gambles' home and Joe Horney's property.

March 25, 2005: Hamilton County Court of Appeals enjoins Rookwood from demolishing or damaging the property of small business owners Matthew and Sanae Ichikawa Burton.

April 27, 2005: Ohio Supreme Court rejects request of Rookwood and Norwood to dissolve its injunctions.

May 20, 2005: Hamilton County Court of Appeals rules that the City of Norwood could use eminent domain to take the Gambles' home and Joe Horney's property and transfer to it to Anderson.

May 25, 2005: Ohio Supreme Court announces it will hear arguments on the issue of whether Ohio law prevents a home or business owner from enjoining a private developer from demolishing his property during an appeal.

January 11, 2006: Ohio Supreme Court hears oral arguments.

July 26, 2006: Decision by Ohio Supreme Court holding that Norwood’s use of eminent domain was unconstitutional.

Current Court: 


Ohio Supreme Court



Remanded to trial court

Next Key Date:



Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Ohio Supreme Court Rules Unanimously To Protect Property From Eminent Domain Abuse (July 26, 2006)

MAP: Eminent Domain Legislation Status for each State Nationwide

Release: Norwood Homeowners Carl and Joy Gamble Announce Sale of Home; Both Fighting Cancer, Gambles Reluctantly Sell Home of 35 Years (March 30, 2007)

MAP: State Supreme Court Rulings On Eminent Domain for Private Development

Release: Ohio Supreme Court Hears Eminent Domain Abuse Case (January 10, 2006)


IJ’s first-ever nationwide census of eminent domain abuse:  Public Power, Private Gain

Release: Historic & Diverse Coalition Calls for Eminent Domain Limits In Ohio & Pennsylvania (November 30, 2005)

Release: Ohio Governor Signs Bill Imposing Eminent Domain Moratorium (November 16, 2005)

Release: Ohio Supreme Court Accepts Eminent Domain Abuse Case (October 3, 2005)

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Release: Ohio Supreme Court Maintains Injunction to Protect Homes From Eminent Domain Destruction (August 10, 2005)

Article: IJ and the Fight for Our Home, Liberty & Law (October 2006)

Release: Institute for Justice and Norwood Homeowners To Ask Ohio Supreme Court to Curb Eminent Domain Abuse (July 5, 2005)

Article: Victory for Ohio Homeowners, Liberty & Law (October, 2006)

Release: X Marks the Spot Of Eminent Domain Abuse (May 25, 2005)

Article: Eminent Domain Abuse on Trial, Liberty & Law (February 2006)

Release: Ohio Supreme Court Accepts First Appeal From Norwood Home and Business Owners (May 25, 2005)

Article: IJ Takes Norwood Eminent Domain Fight To Ohio Appeals Court, Liberty & Law (June 2005)

Release: Ohio Appeals Court Allows City to Abuse The Power of Eminent Domain: Home and Business Owners Vow To Appeal To the Ohio Supreme Court (May 20, 2005)

Article: When the Movers Arrive, Liberty & Law (April 2005)

Article: MotherJones-The Condemned (Jan./Feb. 2005)

Release: Ohio Appeals Court Protects Business From Eminent Domain Destruction (March 29, 2005)

Article: The Norwood, Ohio Eminent Domain Trial: An Inside Look (June 2004)

Release: Senior Citizens Ask Ohio Appellate Court To Save Home from Government Land Grab for Private Profit (March 1, 2005)

Article: Let There Be Blight (April 22, 2004)

Release: Ohio Supreme Court Protects Home From Eminent Domain Destruction (February 22, 2005)

Article: Curtail for-profit ‘land grabs’ (February 26, 2004)

Release: New Filing Urges Ohio Supreme Court To Protect Home From Eminent Domain Abuse (February 11, 2005)

Article: Institute Challenges More Bogus Blight in Ohio Liberty & Law (December 2003)

Release: Can Developer Destroy Home Before Family Has Their Day in Court?: Ohio Supreme Court Asked to Prevent Eviction of Senior Citizens And Destruction of Their Home Through Eminent Domain Abuse (February 1, 2005)


Release: Ohio Senior Citizens Ask Appeals Court To Save Their Home From Eminent Domain Abuse (December 22, 2004)

Release: IJ Will Appeal “Indefensible Decision” Allowing Eminent Domain Abuse In Norwood, Ohio (December 1, 2004)

Release: Appeals Court Rules in Favor Of Norwood Homeowners (September 3, 2004)

Release: Ohio Judge Upholds Use of Eminent Domain In Nice Neighborhood (June 14, 2004)

Release: Ohio Trial To Examine Eminent Domain Abuse: Developer Twists Government Power for His Private Gain (April 5, 2004)

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