New West, L.P. v. City of Joliet, No. 17-2865 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Landlord sued in 2005, contending that Joliet had interfered with the way in which it set rents apartments under the mark-to-market program for rates at subsidized apartments and violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. 3601–31. While an appeal was pending, Joliet filed an eminent-domain suit, proposing to add the land to a public park. The Seventh Circuit held that a recipient of federal financing is not immune from the power of eminent domain. The condemnation trial ran for 18 calendar months; compensation was set at $15 million. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting the FHA claim. The district judge dismissed Landlord's original suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Landlord’s argument that the judge should have put the condemnation action on hold, reserving its FHA suit for a jury trial. The Seventh Circuit had directed it to resolve the condemnation suit first because Joliet professed concern about crime and deterioration at the property. Landlord was free to reserve the FHA claim for this suit, where it would have been entitled to a jury trial. Its FHA claim was resolved in a bench trial only because Landlord insisted on presenting it earlier. Landlord wanted the FHA to be treated as a defense to condemnation, and the district court acquiesced. That choice is responsible for the fact that a judge rather than a jury resolved the FHA claim.