Protect Our Parks will file to have ‘adverse effects’ report accepted as evidence in OPC suit

Rendering of Obama Presidential Center (Courtesy of Obama Foundation)

By AARON GETTINGER

Staff writer

The plaintiffs trying to block construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Jackson Park have asked the District Court to accept the city’s assessment report that the OPC would have an “adverse effect” on Jackson Park’s historic integrity, accepted as evidence as they appeal the case.

“The [assessment of effects] is highly relevant and material to the judgment entered by this court, and necessitates under [Rule 60] that the judgment be set aside and the matter reopened,” the attorneys wrote to Judge John Robert Blakey, who dismissed the lawsuit earlier this summer. Rule 60 is a federal rule of civil procedure that allows a court to correct an oversight when one is found in a judgment — in this case, the plaintiffs assert that the assessment of affects is newly discovered evidence that could not have been previously considered.

“The finding of adverse effect dramatically contradicts and undermines the previous findings of fact and conclusions of law entered by this court in its earlier judgment,” wrote Protect Our Parks’ attorneys, University of Chicago Law School professor Richard Epstein and Michael Rachlis. “No one doubts that the information contained in this report would have been both probative and admissible if introduced before the final judgment was made.”

Protect Our Parks is appealing Blakey’s ruling to the 7th Circuit, and the plaintiffs ask him to “issue an indicative ruling … to the effect that the court would grant plaintiffs’ Rule 60 motion (or that the motion raises a ‘substantial issue’) if it did have jurisdiction” so that the Appeals Court could remand jurisdiction back to him to rule on the request.

Protect Our Parks says that the federal agencies conducting environmental and historical reviews are unlikely to “reverse field and give the OPC undertaking a clean bill of health,” given the assessment of effects, and argue that it must be considered as evidence as the judiciary considers the appeal.

“The correct response to this novel question is to reopen the case so that the full effect of the [assessment of effects] can be analyzed fully before this court,” Epstein and Rachlis wrote. “In evaluating and then relying upon these and other facts, the court did not have the benefit of the [assessment of effects] and its findings to properly and accurately evaluate the purported benefits set forth in the judgment, and was therefore unable to consider the severe and adverse effects on Jackson Park, which will occur if the OPC plans are implemented.”

Rachlis will present the motion in Courtroom 1203 at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn St., at 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 13.

a.gettinger@hpherald.com