The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. 

The United States Supreme Court denied the petition from Protect Our Parks in its case against the city and Chicago Park District over the construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Jackson Park. 

Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who authored the circuit court opinion that POP appealed, did not “take part in the consideration of the petition,” according to the court’s order, which was issued on Monday, April 26.

The 2018 case primarily dealt with issues of public trust doctrine around the transfer of parkland from the city to the Obama Foundation, the nonprofit responsible for the construction of the OPC. The case had been winding its way through the appeals process since the summer of 2019, when a district court found in favor of the city and Park District. 

POP president Herb Caplan said the decision was “disappointing,” though not unexpected. (The city declined comment. The Chicago Park District did not immediately respond to a request for comment.) 

“Because of the uncertainty involved in Petitions for Certiorari it has never been part of our advance planning,” Caplan said. “The next step has always been to follow the directions outlined by the 7th Circuit opinion that was entered and file a new Complaint in federal and state courts to deal directly with the issues of standing to sue and Article III jurisdiction.” 

Caplan said the group had not yet determined when it would file a new case. In the meantime, it has another lawsuit in the works alleging that various government agencies mishandled the federal reviews that made up an integral part of the OPC approval process. 

Reached by the Herald, a spokesperson for the Obama Foundation said, "We are pleased with the decision and continue to eagerly look ahead to a groundbreaking in the second half of this year."

On April 14, the city kicked off preparatory work in Jackson Park ahead of the construction of the OPC. Last week, the Obama Foundation announced the beginning of a $400 million fundraising campaign to finance the project. A groundbreaking is expected in August. 

Marc Monaghan contributed reporting


Christian Belanger graduated from the University of Chicago in 2017. He has previously written for South Side Weekly, Chicago magazine and the Chicago Reader.

(1) comment

Ross Petersen

Considering the make-up of the Court is decidedly right wing- Amy Barrett? - you can't be too surprised. There are some fundamental laws being 'bent', here, including whether the City can, in fact, sell off its assets, a Park, in this case. There are environmental impact statements, and federally mandated reviews. Those reviews were not legally conducted, and there has been No environmental impact statement.

A section 106 review supposedly provides three methods to limit impact: avoidance, minimizing, and finally 'mitigation'. All that was offered was 'mitigation'. The environmental 'assessment' ignored the central tower, ignored US F&W doppler radar studies, ignored the loss of over a thousand trees.

These are fundamental laws that are being broken in the name of Patronage.

Yes, a case of this significance deserves a hearing before the Court.

The Lakefront is Not for sale.

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