Law­suit seek­ing to block Obama Cen­ter from Jack­son Park loses fed­eral ap­peal

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MANNY RAMOS, STAFF RE­PORTER mramos@sun­ | @_ManuelRamo­s_

A fed­eral ap­peals court on Fri­day dealt an­other blow to ef­forts to stop the Obama Pres­i­den­tial Cen­ter from be­ing built in Jack­son Park.

The 7th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals af­firmed much of a U.S. District Court rul­ing which had tossed the law­suit, filed by Pro­tect Our Parks against the Chicago Park District and the city.

The ap­peals court’s de­ci­sion means the Obama Foun­da­tion is steps closer to break­ing ground for the Obama Pres­i­den­tial Cen­ter, planned for 19.3 acres in the park, which is listed on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places.

Pro­tect Our Parks and Maria Valencia filed the fed­eral law­suit in May 2018. Among its ob­jec­tions was that the city and park district vi­o­lated the park district code by trans­fer­ring pub­lic park land to the foun­da­tion for pri­vate use.

The law­suit also claimed the city and park district vi­o­lated the Fifth and Four­teenth amend­ments to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion by trans­fer­ring pub­lic prop­erty for pri­vate use and do­ing so with­out due process.

In June 2019, U.S. District Judge John Blakey granted sum­mary judg­ment in fa­vor of the city, rul­ing that con­struc­tion of the cen­ter should move for­ward with­out a de­lay. Lawyers for Pro­tect Our Parks ap­pealed.

The three-judge ap­pel­late panel af­firmed the lower court’s rul­ing on the con­sti­tu­tional is­sues — but it also said it had no ju­ris­dic­tion to rule on po­ten­tial vi­o­la­tions of state law or park district codes.

That leaves an open­ing for Pro­tect our Parks to con­tinue to pur­sue those is­sues in state court, though it is un­clear if they in­tend to do so. At­tor­neys for Pro­tect our Parks didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Fri­day evening.

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