AG Racine Announces Major Victory in Eminent Domain Case, Saving District Taxpayers $35 Million

Jury Verdict Resolves Dispute Over the New Frederick Douglass Bridge


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced the largest eminent domain victory in District history, securing $35 million in savings for the city, which took the property from Jemal’s Buzzards Point to replace the old South Capitol Street Bridge with the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge.

“The job of the Attorney General requires using the law to protect taxpayer dollars,” said AG Racine. “This was a hard-fought case against one of the District’s largest developers who sought more than $80 million for a property the city took through eminent domain – a sum that is far beyond the value of the property at the time it was taken – along with interest. Through the hard work of the lawyers and professionals at the Office of the Attorney General, a jury agreed that the developer was due less than $55 million – saving taxpayers more than $30 million.”

On June 30, 2005, Jemal’s Buzzards Point – owned by developer Douglas Jemal – purchased the property located at 1620 South Capitol Street, SE for $5 million. The District of Columbia took the property by eminent domain on November 6, 2017. Eminent domain allows the District to acquire private property when that property is needed for some public purpose. In doing so, however, the District must pay the property owner a fair price for the property. Jemal’s Buzzards Point claimed that, as of the date of the taking, the property was worth $81,500,000, and the District valued the property at $48,830,000. After years of discovery, including several expert reports, the case went to trial on October 24, 2022. The jury was asked to determine the fair market value of the property when it was taken based on analyses of hypothetical developments that could have been made to the property.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) argued that the Jemal’s Buzzard Point was inflating the value of its property by proposing a much larger building than zoning rules would have allowed, including a plan for a large marina that would not have been permitted by the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers, and failing to consider the full extent of environmental cleanup costs that would have been necessary to eliminate toxic chemicals.

The burden to prove that the property in question was worth Jemal’s Buzzards Point’s assessed value of $81.5 million rested on the defendants. After a nearly four-week trial, the jury delivered a unanimous verdict valuing the property at $54,258,571.43, a significant victory for the District.

The District was represented at trial by Stephanie Litos, Interim Deputy Attorney General of the Civil Litigation Division; Charles Coughlin, Assistant Chief of the Civil Enforcement Section; Edward Henneberry, Assistant Attorney General in the Commercial Division; and Megan Browder, Deputy Attorney General of the Legal Counsel Division with assistance from Assistant Attorney General John Lui and Paralegal Specialists Michele Fuller and Latisha Cambridge.

About OAG’s Commercial Division
The Commercial Division provides comprehensive legal advice and transactional support in core areas of community and economic development, real estate, property acquisition, procurement, tax and finance, bankruptcy, land use, and public works. This broad portfolio means that the division provides critical assistance to District officials and agencies at virtually every stage of major government projects.

The Land Acquisition & Bankruptcy Section acquires land through condemnation proceedings and judicial foreclosure of District tax liens for public purposes such as the creation of affordable housing, the construction of government office buildings and other economic development projects. The Section also represents District agencies in bankruptcy court in personal and commercial bankruptcies in which the District may have an interest.