Atlantic City, NJ Condemnation

Casino Reinvestment Development Authority v. Coking
The Abuse of Eminent Domain in Atlantic City

Vera Coking won her fight for her Atlantic City home against a New Jersey state agency and Donald Trump.

Trumped: The Donald, The Widow and Eminent Domain

“Individual freedom finds tangible expression in property rights.” This statement, penned by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, recognizes how central property rights are to a free society.

Yet, with increasing frequency, federal, state, and local governments bow to political and economic expediency and trample the rights of property owners.

Vera Coking, an elderly widow from Atlantic City, knows firsthand the power of unaccountable government agencies. The Institute for Justice successfully defended Vera against the condemnation of her home by a State agency that sought to take her property and transfer it—at a bargain-basement price—to another private individual: Donald Trump. Trump convinced the State agency to use its “eminent domain” power to take Vera’s home so he could construct a limousine parking lot for his customers—hardly a public purpose. And unfortunately, cases in which government agencies act not as protectors of constitutionally guaranteed rights, but instead as agents for powerful, private interests, have become all too common.

Thanks to IJ’s advocacy, Vera Coking won in court and continues to enjoy her home of more than three decades.


Essential Background


Background on this case

Client Photo

Release: Court Tells Government: Think Twice Before Condemning Property Widow Can Stay in Only Home, Donald Trump & Government Agency Lose (July 20, 1998)

Client Video


Legal Briefs and Decisions

none available


Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


Fall 1994, original Petition for cert. filed December 10, 1996

Court Filed:


New Jersey Superior Court, Atlantic County



May 7, 1997: N.J. Supreme Court rejects certification



November 13, 1996: N.J. Court of Appeals reverses Superior Court Decision



March 28, 1995: N.J. Superior Court dismisses condemnation on standing



Case Completed; Victory for Property Owners & IJ


Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

none available

MAP: State Supreme Court Rulings On Eminent Domain for Private Development


IJ’s first-ever nationwide census of eminent domain abuse:  Public Power, Private Gain






Op-eds, News Articles and Links



Article: New Jersey Law Journal: Finally, a New Weapon To Fight Eminent Domain (August 9, 1999)

Article: The New York Times: Widowed Homeowner Foils Trump Bid in Atlantic City; Judge Rejects Condemning Land for Casino (July 21, 1998)



Article: Daily News: Widow trumps Donald; Wins court fight to keep N.J. land (June 21, 1998)

Article: ABC News, 20/20: The Trump Card (June 1, 1998)

Article: USA Today: Property taking favors big guy over little guy (May 4, 1998)

Article: The Economist: Donald Trump’s house of cards (August 30, 1997)

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