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What you need to know about the POP lawsuit

The Protect Our Parks (POP) lawsuit was filed in federal court on May 14 against the City of Chicago and Park District. The plantiffs, Charlotte Adelman, Maria Valencia, and Jeremiah Jurevis are not residents of the southside. The lawsuit charges that the plan to lease 19 acres of Jackson Park to the Obama Foundation for use as the site of the OPC is illegal; for more details about the genesis and progress of this case please refer to some of the news reports on this case. You can find an early summary here in the Chicago Reader and a later article herein the Tribune. There have been several legal experts that have also weighed in, you can see a commentary by UChicago’s Lior Strahilevitz here.


February 14th is the court date where the judge (Honorable John Robert Blakey) will decide whether to let the case proceed or to dismiss.


On November 21st, 2018, the City filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction (and several other reasons) because the municipal approval process is now complete. The motion and memorandum filed by the City explain how there have been municipal authorizations approving aspects of the project and regulating the use of the site, including City ordinances controlling the size and layout of the buildings on the site and governing the OPC’s nature and operations.


Amicus Briefs in Support of the City/Park District

On Nov 28th, 2018, three amicus briefs were filed in support of the City and Park District (see our summary and assessment here). From the perspective of our counsel, these are pretty solid and thorough arguments for the Court to dismiss the POP complaint. The briefs in support of the City and Park District come from impressive, major, established institutions:


1) All of Chicago’s Museums in the Parks, including the Alder Planetarium, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum of African American History, The Field Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Science and Industry, National Museum of Mexican Art, National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, The Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and the Shedd Aquarium;


2) 13 Presidential Museums/Librariesfrom across the country, including both Bush libraries and the Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman and Roosevelt Libraries;


3) 7 Property Law Professorsfrom Northwestern, UChicago, Notre Dame, Columbia and Chicago-Kent College of Law.


The first two briefs from the Muesums and Presidential Museums/Libraries document significant precedent for the OPC to be situated in Jackson Park and the third brief discusses the sound legal reasoning behind this process. In our summaries of these briefs are links to the original briefs.



Amicus Briefs in Support of the POP complaint

On January 15th, three amicus briefs were filed in support of the POP plantiffs; these come from two small activist groups (Jackson Park Watch and Preservation Chicago); Charles Birnbaum under the auspices of The Cultural Landscape Foundation; and Richard Epstein, an emeritus law professor at UChicago and member of the conservative Hoover Institution think tank and Federalist Society. All have either been vocal opponents of the OPC in Jackson Park, and/or critics of the Obama Administration.


The arguments presented in these briefs focus on two points. First, that the OPC in Jackson Park is not consistent with the ideals of Museums in the Parks and thus contrary to Olmsted’s vision of the Parks in Chicago (JPW/Preservation Society and Birnbaum) or that there was such conflict of interest between the Obama Foundation and the City of Chicago in the process behind the municipal approvals that they should be deemed invalid (Epstein).


We have summarized these briefs here and point out many internal contradictions and exclusion of relevant data. In brief, the argument involving Olmsted fails to recognize that first, the OPC will be situated on the previous site of the World’s Fair Horticulture building and second, that the landscaping for the OPC site (which will remain public park land free and fully accessible to the public) will transform what is currently a flat and relatively simple site (lawn and trees) into a park setting that truly reflects Olmsted’s vision, with variation in elevation and paths consistent with the original plan, but also vegetation that is consistent with Olmsted’s work and with eyes on how climate change will affect the site in years to come. Additional perks of the landscaping plan will be habitat for birds and other wildlife that does not exist on the current site. Professor Epstein’s brief is an interesting read, with hints of a political bias that seems to shade the perspective of what the OPC will mean for our communities, city and country. In our summaries of these briefs you can find links to the original briefs.


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