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Building damaged by Deep Tunnel project may be sent to U.S. Supreme Court

By Marie Rohde

A lawyer has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s draining of groundwater from under a Menomonee Valley building amounts to taking the owner’s property without paying for it.

Jerome Kerkman, a lawyer representing E-L Enterprises Inc., acknowledged that the chances are slim that the nation’s high court will hear the case. Fewer than 4 percent of the petitions for review are accepted, he noted.

“The issue is that the sewerage district took my client’s property without compensation” Kerkman said. “That is a violation of the property owner’s constitutional rights.”

James Petersen, the district lawyer handling the case, said he was surprised by the appeal.

“I don’t think the U.S. Supreme Court would find a national issue in the case,” Petersen said.

Kerkman’s client, E-L Enterprises Inc., won a $309,388 jury verdict in 2007 against the MMSD. Milwaukee Circuit Judge Richard Sankovitz later awarded attorney fees and costs, bringing the sum to $624,375.

The case involved a building E-L owned, located at 272 N. 12th St., that Kerkman said was damaged as the result of the sewerage district’s 1980s construction of the 19-mile Deep Tunnel.

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