Arent Fox is lobbying the federal government on behalf of clients who have claims regarding unused railways that are designated for recreational trails.
The firm is advocating for the landowners on "litigation arising as a consequence of federal actions taken under the National Trails Systems Act Amendments of 1983," according to a lobbying registration form filed last week. A team of six Arent lobbyists that includes former Rep. Philip English (R-Pa.) is handling the account.
English, an Arent senior government relations adviser, said he and his colleagues are trying to secure the money the United States owes their clients as a result of federal court rulings in which the government was found liable for taking landowners’ property. Under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the government is required to provide “just compensation” to private landowners whose property is taken for public use.
The government has yet to pay tens of millions of dollars to the firm’s clients who have won cases concerning more than 125 claims to land once used by railroad companies in Missouri, Kansas, Arizona and Florida, according to Arent partner Mark "Thor" Hearne II, who has handled Trails Act cases.
“There’s been a great deal of interest on the Hill and our hope is that the Department of Justice will act quickly,” English said.
Most recently in June, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that Kansas landowners represented by the firm should receive compensation for railroad easements that are designated for use as trails.
The property owners in the case claimed that government actions taken under the Trails Act prevented them from receiving rights to land in south-central Kansas. The government argued that the property is “railbanked” land that is abandoned, but might become an active railway again. Under the Trails Act, railbanked land can be transferred to a trail manager without reverting to neighboring property owners.
Judge Nancy Firestone of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims wrote in a June 9 opinion that restoring the railroad easements for train travel is very unlikely.