“A lawsuit over the planned Obama Presidential Center’s campus in Jackson Park has stalled after a federal appeals court panel ruled the plaintiffs did not suffer actual harm and that much of their grievances were not within the court’s jurisdiction.
“The 7th Circuit for the U.S. Court of Appeals issued the ruling on Friday, more than two years after community group Protect Our Parks Inc. filed suit alleging the Chicago Park District and the city of Chicago improperly transferred public parkland to the Obama Foundation for private use.
Among other things, Protect our Parks argued the $500-million, four-building complex’s proposed location on 19.3 acres of the historic Jackson Park violates the public trust doctrine governing use of public land for the greater good of citizens, according to the lawsuit.
“On Friday, the panel decided the plaintiffs did not have standing to argue the city’s agreement with the Obama Foundation violates the public trust doctrine, according to the ruling.
“‘The plaintiffs are nothing more than ‘concerned bystanders,’ and concerned bystanders are not entitled to press their claims in federal court,’ the ruling said.
“The panel also agreed with the district court’s dismissal of the argument that the transfer of public park property violated the Fifth and 14th amendments. It ruled the plaintiffs failed to prove they have a private property interest in Jackson Park that would render its sale to the Obama Foundation as unconstitutional.
“Finally, the panel affirmed the lower courts’ denial of the plaintiffs’ challenge to appeal its lawsuit based on the National Park Service and Federal Highway Administration review that Jackson Park alterations would have an “adverse effect” on its listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Again, the federal appeals and district courts both lack jurisdiction to resolve a public trust claim, according to the ruling.
“Herbert Caplan, founder of Protect Our Parks, said in a phone interview that the group plans to file a motion for rehearing. Should that falter, Caplan said he remains hopeful of a long-shot chance at consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“‘From the moment I researched this case and we decided to file a lawsuit, I didn’t think there was any doubt that we were right,’ Caplan wrote. ‘I still think that all the arguments that we had raised in the complaint were never really countered or answered, and they’re of such importance that they need to be addressed. And that’s what keeps us going.’ (Yin, 8/25/20)
Lawsuit seeking to block the Obama Presidential Center loses federal appeal; A three-judge appellate panel affirmed the U.S. District Court ruling, but said they couldn’t rule on some matters it considered to be under state, not federal, jurisdiction, Manny Ramos, Chicago Sun-Times 8/21/20