Gideon Kanner reminds us of the passing of retired California Court of Appeal Justice Lynn "Buck" Compton, famous of late for his exploits as a hard-charging paratrooper in World War II (L.A. Times story here). Gideon writes about Justice Compton's time on the bench:
No, we aren’t going to wax lyrical about the high profile criminal cases in which he was involved, first as a prosecutor and later as a judge. We leave that to the popular press. We do wish to note that "Buck" Compton was one of the few — very few — California appellate judges who would give condemnees an even break, and for that he deserves our, and your thanks. He was tough-looking and blunt, but you knew when you appeared before him on behalf of property owners in an eminent domain case that he would listen to your arguments and give them fair consideration, unlike so many of his colleagues who made only rudimentary efforts to conceal their disdain for condemnees and their arguments.
I never appeared before Justice Compton, but since I took airborne training during my short time in the army many years ago (dad was an old soldier with the 101st, so I naturally tried that before law school) and had read the Stephen Ambrose book Band of Brothers and followed the miniseries, I knew of Compton's wartime service. It also happened that a fellow resident of my mother's apartment building was also a retired L.A. deputy DA, and had spent years with Compton prosecuting cases, and over time he shared many stories of their days practicing together with me.
But I had studied only one of Justice Compton's opinions in detail before (City of Los Angeles v. Venice Peninsula Properties, 205 Cal. App. 3d 1522, 253 Cal. Rptr. 331 (1988), the case involving whether Ballona Lagoon in Southern California was subject to the state's tidelands trust, that eventually ended up in the Supreme Court. See Summa Corp. v. California ex rel. Lands Comm'n, 466 U.S. 198 (1984)).
Today's reports and Gideon's write up compelled me to look others up. Here's a sampling:
- Smith v. State, 50 Cal. App. 3d 529 (1975) (an inverse condemnation Klopping claim for inequitable precondemnation activities; court held that delay of condemnation was not arbitrary: "Given the uncertainties of today and the multitude of obstacles to be surmounted before formal condemnation of plaintiffs' property may take place, the present adoption appears to us to be no more than a general plan no more certain of implementation than the one addressed in Selby.").
- Smart v. City of Los Angeles, 112 Cal. App. 3d 232, 169 Cal. Rptr. 174 (1980) (inverse condemnation for damages resulting from LAX overflights; court held that the statute of limitations had not expired).
- Pacific Legal Foundation v. Cal. Coastal Comm'n, 129 Cal. App. 2d 44, 180 Cal. Rptr. 858 (1982) (Justice Compton's opinion held that the Coastal Commission overstepped its authority: "Rarely, if ever, have we had occasion to note such an overt manifestation of bias and the use of such pejorative language in the official writings of an agency of the State of California. By that statement the Commission has simply declared that the very existence of privately owned residences along the shore line is an anathema to the public interest and has cast the private property owner in the role of the 'heavy' in every scenario. The regulation is in direct contradiction with the spirit of Public Resources Code section 30001(d) and the stated legislative policy."). (sorry, I can't seem to find a web-available version of this opinion since it was vacated as unripe by the California Supreme Court and presumably "depublished").
- Also, we couldn't resist this quote from that case: "In other words, the Commission takes the view that private owners of beach front property must eventually lose their property by either permitting it to be eroded away by the inevitable and unaltered 'shoreline processes' or dedicate it to the state as a price for preventing such erosion. This is a veritable 'Hobson's Choice' involving a decision which, as in the case of Jackson, et al. v. Commission, often must be made under exigent circumstances." Note that the U.S. Supreme Court in another case involving the Coastal Commission eventually upheld this view. See Nollan v. Cal. Coastal Comm'n, 483 U.S. 825 (1987).
- Tilem v. City of Los Angeles, 142 Cal. App. 3d 694, 191 Cal. Rptr. 229 (1983) (inverse and straight takings cases in which the court held for the property owner in a Klopping claim: "Without a doubt the City's conduct in the case under review placed a substantial "cloud" over both parcels of land owned by Tilem.").
- (City of Los Angeles v. Venice Peninsula Properties, 205 Cal. App. 3d 1522, 253 Cal. Rptr. 331 (1988) ("At issue on this appeal is whether, by virtue of the so-called California Tidelands Trust Doctrine, the State and its successor in interest, the City, can assert an easement for commerce, navigation and fishery over land which was part of a Mexican land grant and patented by the United States government pursuant to the Act of 1851. We hold that neither the State nor the City possess such an easement over the property in question here.") (footnote omitted)
- Baldwin Park Redev. Agency v. Irving, 156 Cal. App. 3d 428, 202 Cal. Rptr. 792 (1984) ("The essential question to be resolved on this appeal is whether the condemner's conduct entitles defendant to an award of damages for the value of her business inventory less the amount obtained at the salvage sale. The Agency maintains that such personal property is, as a matter of law, noncompensable in an action for condemnation of real property and that as a consequence defendant may not be indemnified for the loss allegedly incurred here. We have concluded, however, that since the condemnatory act in and of itself resulted in the devaluation of her stock in trade, she is entitled to be compensated for the loss of the property in question.").
- Aetna Life & Cas. Co. v. City of Los Angeles, 179 Cal. App. 3d 865, 216 Cal. Rptr. 831 (1985) (inverse condemnation includes damages from fire).
- Redev. Agnecy of City of Huntington Park v. Norm's Slauson, 173 Cal. App. 3d 1121, 219 Cal. Rptr. 365 (1985) (agency had no right to take property because "[i]n short, the agency, without any notice to Norm's, in effect sold the property and issued bonds to obtain the money to acquire the property all before taking any steps to condemn the property.")
In addition to these opinions, you really should read the L.A. Times obituary - my gosh, what a life: Rose Bowl athlete, tough-but-humble paratrooper and warrior, police detective, high-stakes prosecutor, measured jurist, author.