Topeka A Lawrence development company and law firm has a keen interest in seeing that legislation before the Senate today becomes law.
Without passage of SB 398, an award of several hundred thousand dollars to Westgate LC may be in question.
"It prevents harm, rather than creating a benefit," said Jane Eldredge, an attorney with Barber Emerson, which represented Westgate LC and lobbied for passage of the Senate bill.
Last summer, a jury ordered the Kansas Department of Transportation to pay Westgate the money for property rights acquired to widen Sixth Street adjacent to the Westgate shopping center. Westgate had appealed an earlier appraiser's award.
Eldredge did not know off the top of her head the exact amount of the award, but a report at the time said it was $317,000.
But then in December, the Kansas Supreme Court, in another condemnation case, made a ruling on a 2003 change to the eminent domain law that will affect the Westgate case, lawmakers said.
The court ruled that an appeal from an appraiser's award to district court must be docketed as a new action and a docket fee be paid.
Westgate didn't pay that docket fee, which costs $111.
"Which means the whole issue of jury award may become null and void," Eldredge said.
Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the state Supreme Court incorrectly interpreted the 2003 change in the law, and the new legislation corrects that and makes it retroactive.
"So what we are doing is correcting that interpretation of the Legislature's intent," Vratil said.
Vratil said to his knowledge, the change only affected the Westgate case, but Eldredge said there were several others.
Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said she favored the policy behind the bill, but she had some concern over whether the Senate was getting involved in specific litigation.
"That would be inappropriate," she said.
The measure has been described by some as "cleanup language" that will be part of today's Senate debate on eminent domain.
Also before the Senate are proposals that would limit the government's authority to take property for other projects.