Court: No pay for seized Ky. property
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Former western Kentucky landowners and their families are not entitled to compensation for property taken by the US government to build a military camp at the start of World War II, a federal court said in 2-to-1 ruling yesterday, ending a 15-year legal battle in the case.
Landowners and their families claim the government promised to sell back farmland taken for Camp Breckinridge near Henderson, Ky., after the war in the 1940s, but later sold it and mineral rights without paying them. The federal government asked the court to deny the claim, saying the time to seek compensation had long passed.
The US Court of Federal Claims said more than 1,000 landowners and their families cannot make a legal case that they deserve to be paid back for thousands of acres the Army seized. With the legal options all but shut off, attorneys say the other option is to appeal to Congress, which sent the landowners' claims to the court in 1994 to determine if any compensation was due.
"We believe the intent of Congress was to address the claims on their merits," said attorney Steve Pitt. "We certainly will be bringing this before our congressional delegation."
The ruling dismisses a recommendation by another judge on the court that the former landowners receive at least $32 million. Judges Lawrence S. Margolis and Loren A. Smith wrote a 20-page decision that "any award to the Claimants would constitute a gratuity" and recommended Congress be advised that they should receive nothing.
"Hundreds of tracts of land were purchased by the Government, and only a handful of landowners testified that they were personally promised the right to repurchase their land after World War II ended," the judges wrote.