CHICAGO – A federal jury was picked Tuesday for the Evergreen Terrace trial, and it is expected to come to Joliet on Wednesday.
The jury is scheduled to visit the Evergreen Terrace apartment complex as part of a one-week trial to determine what the city should pay for it.
Attorneys agreed in court that the trial would likely wrap up in a week. That would be a quick end to a case litigated since 2005 and has wound its way all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court as Joliet established its right to exercise eminent domain over the low-income housing complex supported with federal subsidies.
"You are to decide the amount of just compensation," U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle told prospective jurors as he described the case Tuesday at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago.
Norgle told jurors they would not consider whether Joliet was justified in taking over Evergreen Terrace. He decided that in a ruling in September.
The judge told jurors they would hear from appraisers on both sides, with Joliet putting the complex's value at about $14 million and Evergreen Terrace owners putting the value at about $23 million.
"In a very small nutshell, that is what this case is about," he said.
Evergreen Terrace's appraiser, however, will be restricted since Norgle has ruled that he cannot base the value of the property on subsidized rents, which are higher than market value and went into the $23 million appraisal.
Norgle also told jurors, "The good news is that this will not be a very long trial."
The trial follows efforts made as late as Monday to negotiate a price for the property.
Opening arguments are expected to be made Wednesday morning.
In the afternoon, the 12-member jury is set to take a bus to Evergreen Terrace to look over the Broadway Street property.
There was some discussion in court before jury selection over just how the "jury view" of Evergreen Terrace will be conducted.
"I want to know what they're going to be shown," said James Figliulo, attorney for Joliet.
Attorney Theodore Tetzlaff, who represents Evergreen Terrace, said jurors will be able to go where they want.
"We just want the ability for the jurors to view the property," Tetzlaff said.
Norgle outlined what he expected to happen in Joliet.
"They would not be permitted to ask questions of anybody at the scene, and no one will speak to them," he said. "A view is just a view. And then they would get back on the bus."
The only witnesses scheduled for the trial are the appraisers. Joliet had two appraisers, but Figliulo said he may only call one to testify. Tetzlaff said he expects to put the one appraiser used by Evergreen Terrace on the stand.
Whatever price the jury sets, it may not end the Evergreen Terrace saga.
The Joliet City Council would have to agree to pay the price set, and there has been dissension over whether the city should go ahead with the takeover. And Evergreen Terrace owners have said they intend to appeal Norgle's September ruling that gave Joliet the ability to take control of the property.