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Carol Pappas, foe of eminent domain, dies

Carol Pappas, whose family waged a long-running legal battle against eminent domain that helped raise the issue to national prominence, died Thursday from leukemia. She was 82.

She remained a fierce opponent of eminent domain since her family’s case began in 1993, said her son Harry Pappas.

“She was pretty courageous fighting this (case) for 11 years,” he said.

Carol Pappas was born in Greece in 1927. Her family moved to Athens when she was young and suffered through World War II and Nazi occupation, experiences that shaped her later legal fight.

“She said, ‘They have stolen our property with the point of a bayonet in Greece. Here, they steal it with white gloves,’ ” Harry Pappas said.

She met her husband, John Pappas, in Bermuda in 1953, and they came to Las Vegas, where he ran the White Spot restaurant downtown.

The case that brought such prominence started when the city of Las Vegas used eminent domain to acquire from the Pappas family property for the Fremont Street Experience parking garage.

The family ultimately settled the case for $4.5 million in 2004 after taking it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2005, the high court ruled in another case that eminent domain could be used to make a property owner transfer real estate for commercial interests, a decision that sparked outrage in many quarters.

The Nevada Legislature placed more stringent restrictions on the use of eminent domain, and later the voter-approved PISTOL initiative went further by barring the taking of land for private developments.

The Pappas case helped focus attention on the issue, even though it was not the eminent domain case that ended up being ruled upon, Harry Pappas said.

“When our case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, there were a lot of briefs. Nationally, this case was well-known, well-read,” he said.

Carol Pappas is survived by two sons, Harry and Johnny; two sisters, Dina Kelesis and Evyenia Dalacas; and two grandchildren.

A small service will be at 6 p.m. Friday in St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, followed by a memorial service at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.

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