A Mississippi town declared multi-generational homes in a historic black neighborhood “blighted” as a pretext to seize them through eminent domain, a new lawsuit claims.
The Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Thursday on behalf of several residents of Ocean Springs, who say the small town abused Mississippi’s urban renewal laws to brand their close-knit neighborhood, where generations of families have lived, a blighted slum.
The suit argues Ocean Springs’ failure to adequately notify residents that their homes were being included in an “urban renewal zone,” and Mississippi’s failure to require such notification, violate the Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.
“Ocean Springs cannot brand neighborhoods as slums in secret,” Institute for Justice senior vice president and litigation director Dana Berliner said in a press release. “Depriving people of their property rights without any process is a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution. Ocean Springs should be happy to have such a closely-knit, warm community. It shouldn’t try to destroy it.”
One of the five plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Cynthia Fisher, has lived in her family’s 100-year-old house in what’s known as the Railroad District for more than 70…