• Posts by Bradford B. Kuhn
    Partner

    Brad Kuhn, Chair of Nossaman's Eminent Domain & Valuation Group, guides private and public sector clients through complex real estate development and infrastructure projects – particularly with eminent domain/inverse ...

Posted in Water
Valuing Water Rights in Eminent Domain

As water becomes scarcer in California, public agencies are looking for new sources and opportunities to provide water to their communities. When the government identifies those water sources but confronts unwilling sellers, eminent domain sometimes becomes necessary. This is currently taking place in the Antelope Valley, where the Rosamond Community Services District recently approved the adoption of a resolution of necessity to acquire water rights from agricultural land by eminent domain.

The District is facing shortages in its future water supplies and it is limited in ...

SCOTUS Says Eviction Bans Intrude on a Fundamental Element of Property Ownership

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) exceeded its authority when it imposed a national eviction moratorium. More precisely, in Alabama Association of Realtors v. Department of Health and Human Services, the Court agreed with a district court determination that the CDC acted unlawfully in banning evictions of residential tenants who declare financial need in counties with high COVID-19 rates. In its decision, the Supreme Court concluded, “If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must ...

The Dedication Doctrine vs. The Project Influence Rule – Which Valuation Methodology Applies? 

Property dedication requirements and eminent domain usually don’t mix well: they make for an odd and confusing set of valuation rules. For example, if an agency seeks to condemn property to build a road through an undeveloped area, but that road would be required in order to develop the properties, how should it be valued? Under one set of eminent domain rules (the Porterville doctrine), the property subject to dedication has little value since it would have to be given up as part of any future development. Under another set of eminent domain rules (the “project influence rule” ...

SCOTUS’ Take on Takings

The Supreme Court of the United States rarely hears anything related to eminent domain or takings cases; the Kelo decision in 2005 was the latest “big” case for our industry, although the 2019 Knick decision also made headlines. But in the last week, SCOTUS has shown a keen interest in property rights, rendering several impactful decisions – with a focus on California in particular.

We just reported on the Cedar Point Nursery decision, where the Court found that a regulation allowing unions to access private property constituted a taking. Now, the Court has issued several more ...

Posted in Right to Take

On June 23rd, the United States Supreme Court held that a California regulation allowing labor organizations to intermittently access agricultural employers’ property was an unconstitutional taking. The Court reversed the decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, an outcome we predicted in our post last year about this issue. The decision is a major victory for property owners, and raises questions going forward about a public agency’s ability to regulate private property rights—particularly as it pertains to allowing temporary access … 

Can a Public Agency Condemn Property to Prevent a Proposed Private Use?

In the City of Fresno, the Tower Theatre is a bohemian landmark, opened in 1929 as a 20th Century Fox Movie House. This year, it became public that Adventure Church was buying the theatre, which has caused tensions to rise in the community, with thousands signing a petition to save the historic theatre, weeks of demonstrations trying to prevent its use as a church, and even a pending lawsuit. The City attempted to defuse the situation by offering Adventure Church an alternative location, which also backfired. So what’s next? The City may be considering using eminent domain to prevent ...

Posted in Right of Way
What Happens When Railroad Right-of-Way is Abandoned and Turned into a Public Trail System?

Throughout the United States, old railroad corridors are being abandoned and converted into other uses, such as hiking, biking or other trail purposes. This converted use makes sense, as it is difficult to otherwise compile a long stretch of right-of-way that would be needed to create such trails. But are adjacent property owners entitled to some sort of just compensation when this conversion takes place?  The answer is maybe. 

Before a railroad operator can abandon its right-of-way, it must first secure approvals by the Surface Transportation Board. When that abandonment process ...

Does California Legislation’s Proposed Voluntary Coastal Property Acquisition Program Address Sea Level Rise?

For those of you who missed our recent webinar, "Living on the Edge: Managing Sea Level Rise in California", you can find a recording of the event posted on our website.  My colleagues Ben Rubin and John Erskine provided a great overview of ways to protect existing infrastructure and private property through coastal resiliency, what the models and data are suggesting on the future of sea level rise and the status of pending sea level rise legislation in California. I covered risks and possible solutions for public agencies and property owners, with a focus on how Coastal Commission and ...

WEBINAR: Living on the Edge: Managing Sea Level Rise in California

With the recent flurry of coastal law bills before the California State Legislature and the myriad headlines advising that we must retreat from the shore, sea level rise (SLR) and related climate change topics remain front and center in California. Join our Water Industry Group on May 27, 2021 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. PT for "Living on the Edge: Managing Sea Level Rise in California" as we sort through the pending legislation and discuss the basis for this ever-increasing concern with the encroaching ocean.

Comprised of attorneys from Nossaman’s Water, Environment & Land Use and ...

The Role of a Trial Court in Cases Featuring Concurrent Inverse Condemnation and Tort Claims

When a property owner suffers damage as a result of the actions of a public agency or public improvement, the owner typically pursues typical tort causes of action against the agency, along with a claim for inverse condemnation. While liability for the tort claims is decided by a jury, liability for inverse condemnation is determined by a judge. So what happens when both claims are pursued simultaneously -- should the judge rely on the jury’s determination of causation, or should the judge make his or her own findings? 

Recently in Amedee Geothermal Venture I v. Lassen Municipal ...

Another Appraisal Opinion Bites the Dust

In California eminent domain cases, appraisers typically have relatively wide latitude in determining fair market value for the property to be acquired. However, there are certain rules they must follow, and when an appraiser violates those rules, the appraiser’s opinion may be completely stricken, leaving a property owner or a public agency with no valuation evidence. This is precisely what happened in a new unpublished California Court of Appeal decision, Solano Transportation Authority v. Anderson (2021 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 2129), where the property owners’ ...

Project Benefits - Do They Ever Apply, and If So, How Are Benefits Supported?

On April 21, 2021, I will be participating in the sixth annual International Right of Way Association (IRWA) Chapter 57 and Southern California Chapter of the Appraisal Institute's (SCCAI) Virtual Joint Meeting. I will be a co-presenter discussing "Project Benefits - Do They Ever Apply, and If So, How Are Benefits Supported?" during which we will cover project benefits and their significance in the eminent domain arena. This program will also include:

  • The statutory and case law landscape that gives rise to the issue of project benefits, when and how they may apply and methods and ...
Sea Level Rise Legislation – What’s on the Horizon?

Sea level rise is a critical issue facing public agencies and property owners throughout the United States. In California alone, this phenomenon could impact thousands of residences and businesses, dozens of wastewater treatment plants and power plants and hundreds of miles of highways, roads and railways. Last year, the California Legislature introduced a number of bills that proposed to address, or anticipate, or mitigate the impacts of sea level rise in California. Almost all of those bills, however, failed to make their way to the Governor’s desk. This year, the California ...

“Futility Exception” Satisfies the Ripeness Requirement for Inverse Condemnation Claims

In order for a property owner to successfully pursue a regulatory takings claim for inverse condemnation, the owner is typically required to pursue multiple different development options, and face multiple permit denials, before a claim will be ripe. However, a recent California Court of Appeal opinion, Felkay v. City of Santa Barbara, 2021 Cal.App. LEXIS 225, held that “multiple applications are not required where the permit denial makes clear that no development of the property would be allowed under any circumstance.”

Background

In this case, a property owner applied to ...

Tune in to Nossaman’s Recent Land Use Podcasts

Providing listeners a convenient and concise medium to access timely reports on important land use topics, Nossaman’s recent podcast offerings make a great addition to your professional playlist.

First, check out Nossaman’s own Digging Into Land Use Law podcast, which covers the development of all things in, on or above the ground. Recently, I recorded the episode “Valuation and Damages: Assessing COVID-19’s Economic Impact.” Changes in how businesses operate, restrictions on property use and reduced revenues brought on by mandated closures due to COVID-19 have had ...

Posted in Court Decisions
Agency Obligations May Not Be Circumvented Through Unique Statutory Interpretation

Sometimes a public agency ends up abandoning an eminent domain proceeding, even after the property owner or business has moved from the property. Under Code of Civil Procedure, section 1268.620, if a defendant “moves from property” and the agency subsequently dismisses the suit, the owner/business may be able to recover payment of all damages proximately caused by the proceeding and its dismissal.  One would think determining whether an owner/occupant has “moved” from the property would not be an issue for dispute.  But a recent unpublished California Court of Appeal ...

Government’s Forced Sale of Property Does Not Constitute a Taking

When the government requires a property owner to give up private property, the takings clause normally comes into play and the government is required to exercise its power of eminent domain. But is that always the case? According to a recent court of appeal opinion, People v. Gonzalez (Nov. 24, 2020, D077208), there are a number of circumstances in which the government can require a property owner to sell without triggering a taking of private property.

In Gonzalez, a property owner was charged with using his property without a permit or variance and maintaining an unauthorized ...

Posted in Events, Right of Way
Business Valuation and Damages: Assessing COVID-19’s Economic Impact

On December 3, Brad Kuhn and Maya Hamouie will co-present “Business Valuation and Damages: Assessing COVID-19’s Economic Impact” at the virtual lunch hosted by Chapter 1 of the International Right of Way Association (IRWA) for its members.

Brad and Maya will review the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy, discuss business valuation methodologies and how to take COVID-19 into consideration, then review how these scenarios are playing out in litigation. Following the presentation, they will have an interactive Q&A session with members of the audience.

Chapter 1 of IRWA seeks ...

Don’t Forget to Value Those Billboards in Condemnation!

When a public agency seeks to acquire property by eminent domain, the agency’s appraiser sometimes forgets to account for unique value attributes of the property. For example, the valuation may fail to take into account income the property generates from a billboard or a cell tower. According to an article on KCRA News, 'I think they are a bunch of thieves': Auburn couple decries Caltrans' eminent domain move, this situation is currently playing out in Northern California. …

COVID-19, Outdoor Dining, Street Closures and Takings?

As the world continues to grapple with the devastating impacts from COVID-19, local government agencies are finding ways to help local businesses survive while still complying with the complex maze of regulatory requirements. As just one example, many cities and counties are permitting restaurants and other businesses to offer outdoor dining and other services, including granting permits to operate on the public sidewalk or in streets. However, in some cases, while those outdoor operations may benefit some businesses, other businesses are complaining about the resulting ...

Top 10 Issues Affecting Real Estate

Each year, the Counselors of Real Estate organization polls its members and thereafter releases a summary of the “Top 10 Issues Affecting Real Estate.” You can find the article here

As expected, COVID-19 dominated the headlines and ranked number 1 on the list of issues. Aside from the personal, emotional, and economic toll, COVID-19 raises serious questions about the future demand for real estate, and whether it will be reduced by the “virtual office” and preference for home entertainment? There is a huge question mark regarding how long social distancing will persist, and ...

Posted in Appraisal, Valuation
Top 10 Considerations When Retaining an Appraiser for Eminent Domain

When a public agency is acquiring private property for a public project, typically the key issue in dispute is how much the agency should pay -- what is “just compensation”? Determining the property’s value and any damages from the acquisition or public project is usually based on appraisals prepared for the public agency and property owner. A recent article written by Lauren Alexander, on behalf of the Owners' Counsel of America (a network of experienced eminent domain attorneys dedicated to defending the rights of private property owners across the US), highlights the top 10 ...

Government’s Enforcement of Development Plan Conditions is Not a Taking

When a property owner commits to developing property in a certain manner, including providing a certain number of parking spaces, and the local government agency enforces the owner’s failure to comply, does the enforcement result in a taking? As expected, the answer is no -- there is no taking. This was the outcome of a recent court of appeal decision, 3558 Sagunto St. v. County of Santa Barbara (2020 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 5328).

Background

In 3558 Sagunto St., a property owner owned two adjacent parcels, and submitted a development plan which designated a certain number of parking ...

There Can Be No Taking for Impairment of Access If the Property Does Not Abut a Public Road

We routinely get calls from owners facing impacts to their property or business as a result of construction of a public project or changes in adjacent public streets. For example, the city or county may close a road, create a cul-de-sac, turn a two-way street into a one-way street, close a driveway, relocate an off-ramp, or change a road’s elevation. When there is no physical taking of property, do these public improvements trigger a taking entitling an owner to compensation? It is a tricky, heavily fact-intensive inquiry, but generally, the analysis centers around whether the ...

Court Reminds Public Agency it Must Put Condemned Property to Public Use Within 10 Years

After adopting a resolution of necessity and initiating eminent domain proceedings to acquire private property, public agencies are usually in a rush to move forward with the proposed public project.  But every once in a while, those projects get delayed or postponed.  A recent court of appeal decision, Rutgard v. City of Los Angeles (2020) Cal.App. LEXIS 709, serves as an important reminder for public agencies that they must put the property to public use within 10 years or otherwise timely adopt a new resolution of necessity.  Absent doing so, the public agency has an obligation to offer ...

Temporary Construction Easement Expirations During the COVID-19 Pandemic

During Nossaman's recent webinar concerning Transit & Transportation Project Success in the Wake of the Pandemic, I addressed Temporary Construction Easement (TCE) issues. For a re-cap of my presentation on this topic please click here.

Additionally, to view our entire webinar "A Path to Transit & Transportation Project Success in the Wake of the Pandemic: A Panel Discussion Among Legal Professionals," please click here to access the full on-demand recording.

We continue to monitor developments related to COVID-19 and are available to respond to questions and discuss issues ...

Posted in New Legislation
California Adopts Statutory Backstop Legislation as PG&E Emerges from Bankruptcy

On June 30, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 350 (“SB 350”), which is intended to serve as a backstop for customers as Pacific Gas and Electric Company (“PG&E”) completes its restructuring process and begins implementing the reorganization plan recently confirmed by the United States Bankruptcy Court. The bill, named the Golden State Energy Act, gives the State authority to take certain actions if PG&E does not comply with the terms of its reorganization plan.

SB 350 establishes a new entity named Golden State Energy (“GSE”) to serve as a nonprofit public ...

Inverse Condemnation Exposure and Management for the Energy Industry

Our presentation on "Inverse Condemnation Exposure and Management for the Energy Industry" will be available for viewing during the 2020 American Association of Professional Landmen's (AAPL) Annual Meeting. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event will be held virtually and presentations will be prerecorded and available to view on demand after the scheduled live run time on June 18th. Registration is required, but access will be available as a complimentary benefit for all AAPL members.

The 2020 event still promises to be a professional development and land conference ...

WEBINAR: A Path to Transit and Transportation Project Success in the Wake of the Pandemic

For those of you involved in the transportation sector, we invite you to join us on Wednesday, June 3rd for a discussion on planning, procurement and financing strategies that can be implemented now to support timely project delivery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are planning a very interactive webinar where ample time will be set aside to answer questions received from attendees both prior to and during the event.

Topics that will be covered include:

  • How to prepare now to efficiently and effectively move projects forward
  • Procurement and contracting strategies that enable ...
Posted in Publications
Thank You for Reading!

Thank you to all of our readers for helping to make me a JD Supra 2020 Readers' Choice Award recipient! Last year, more than 50,000 authors published their insights and commentary on JD Supra. I am proud to be recognized as one of the top thought leaders in 26 popular categories who achieved the highest visibility and engagement among readers. My fellow top real estate category authors and I were chosen from a pool of more than 2,700 writers covering real estate matters on JD Supra. 

JD Supra is a daily source of need-to-know intelligence on professional and personal matters. They publish and ...

Amendments to Proposed Legislation Would Change Municipalization / Eminent Domain Takeovers of Electric, Gas and Water Utilities

We’ve previously reported on Senate Bill 917, which was introduced on February 3, 2020, by Senator Wiener (D-San Francisco) to establish a process for a potential government takeover of investor-owned electrical, gas and water corporations.  While the stated intention of the bill was to facilitate an eminent domain acquisition of PG&E by the state government, its wording goes much further.  Additionally, on April 3, a series of amendments were introduced that would potentially significantly change the burden of proof on a municipalization takeover effort. 

Specifically, the ...

Does the Coronavirus Shutdown Trigger a Regulatory Taking?

With the recent government mandates surrounding COVID-19, many businesses are completely shut down and are legally unable to open their doors to the public.  Are those businesses -- movie theaters, gyms, retail stores, etc. -- entitled to compensation for a regulatory taking?  Similarly, landlords are experiencing massive losses as those tenants are unable to make rental payments; are those losses compensable?  Should governments worry about liability when issuing orders requiring the closure of businesses? 

While compensation arguably should be paid from a decency and “good ...

Posted in Right of Way
Navigating COVID-19 for the Right of Way Industry

COVID-19 has undoubtedly upended the world, including the way we do business and the future of our economy. We have received a number of questions and concerns from clients in the right of way industry on how the current pandemic affects the way we do business, and what to expect going forward. Please read on for links to helpful resources...

“Public Improvement” Narrowly Defined to Limit Inverse Condemnation Liability

Since the California Supreme Court’s 2019 Oroville decision, which narrowed inverse condemnation liability for public agencies, several court decisions have followed suit.  This week, the California Court of Appeal issued a published decision in Ruiz v. County of San Diego (2020 Cal. App. LEXIS 282), which further clarified and limited what constitutes a “public improvement” for purposes of inverse liability ...

While inverse condemnation liability in California originates from the California Constitution, determining when it applies -- and under what circumstances -- is based on a lengthy morass of case law that has been described by one court as “seemingly inconsistent and irreconcilable.”  If you’re interested in learning more about the subject ...

Brad Kuhn was quoted extensively in the Daily Journal article “Century-Old Doctrine  Haunts Fire Litigation.” The article provides an overview of how developments in inverse condemnation that occurred in 2019 pose numerous questions for 2020 in California. 

In the article, Brad commented on inverse condemnation—a legal provision under California state law that holds if a power company’s equipment starts a fire, it is responsible for paying property damages, even if they are not found to have been negligent.

He stated that the “inverse doctrine in and of itself is ...

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Tags: Wildfires
Posted in Lawsuit, Projects
Mojave Air & Space Port to Use Eminent Domain if Negotiations Fail to Lift Off

Eminent domain is typically used for roads, utilities, schools, and even airports, but in California, it is quite unusual (perhaps even unheard of) to use eminent domain for space travel.  

But according to an article in the Antelope Valley Press, Eminent domain possible if airport land buy fails, that is exactly what's about to happen.  According to the article, the Mojave Air and Space Port Board of Directors agreed to move ahead with eminent domain for acquiring several vacant parcels of land if negotiations fail.  The properties are apparently necessary to expand the safety zone ...

Last year, the United States Supreme Court made headlines (at least in our eminent domain world) by issuing a ruling in Knick v. Township of Scott that property owners can bypass the state courts and directly file a Fifth Amendment takings claim in federal court (you can find our write-up on Knick here).  This was a stark shift from prior law, which held that a property owner had to first finalize their pursuit of compensation through any applicable state procedures.  We are still feeling the effects from the Supreme Court's holding, but one question that has been raised is how does the ...

As we have written about in past posts, the issue of inverse condemnation remains on the forefront in the state given the continuing, severe wildfire risks and other climate change impacts.  Brad Kuhn was recently quoted in the Wall Street Journal in “PG&E Isn’t Alone in Facing Liability Risk Over California Fires,” addressing liability associated with inverse condemnation.  Willis Hon also commented on the current legislative situation in an E&E News EnergyWire article:  “Legal 'whipsaw' threatens PG&E's future.”  If you’re interested in potential legislative ...

Get Geared Up for 2020 Eminent Domain & Inverse Condemnation Projects with Nossaman

As we all get into the holiday spirit, don’t forget to keep your skills and knowledge sharp for what is looking to shape up as a very active 2020 in the projects arena.  Join our Nossaman Partners for the following year-end conferences before settling in for your long winter’s nap! ...

Posted in Court Decisions
Commercial Tenants Can Assign Right to Just Compensation

In an eminent domain proceeding, tenants of property subject to condemnation have constitutional rights to just compensation. However, those rights can be assigned to the landlord through a lease agreement. A recent unpublished Court of Appeal decision confirmed that commercial tenants can assign all claims to just compensation through the terms of a lease agreement ...

Government’s Property Regulation Terminating Cannabis License is Not a Taking

It is commonplace for a local government agency to require a property or business owner to secure a license or permit for a particular type of operation (such as a liquor license, medical marijuana license, etc.).  If the property owner expends substantial funds developing the business or property in reliance on that license or permit, and a government regulation thereafter prohibits that use, does it trigger a taking entitling the property or business owner to just compensation?  According to a recent California district court decision, the answer is no.  In ...

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We recently reported on the California Supreme Court’s decision in Oroville which provided a relaxed standard for public agencies facing inverse condemnation claims.  Since that decision, a new unpublished Court of Appeal decision provides further guidance and supports the “reasonableness” analysis considered in Oroville, although in this case the decision was not as favorable to public entities with respect to determining whether the damage is caused by a public or private improvement ...

Sea-Level Rise, Managed Retreat and Eminent Domain in California

Thanks to all of you who were able to attend Nossaman’s Coastal Law Conference last week.  If you missed the event, I provided an update on sea-level rise, managed retreat, and potential eminent domain / regulatory takings issues in California.  Specifically, I touched on: ...

On August 15, 2019, the California Supreme Court issued its first inverse condemnation opinion in more than 22 years in the case City of Oroville v. Superior Court of Butte County, Case No. S243247.  The Court held that to succeed on an inverse condemnation claim, a property owner must show more than just a causal link between the existence of a public improvement and damage to private property:  it must demonstrate that “the property damage was the probable result or necessary effect of an inherent risk associated with the design, construction, or maintenance of the relevant ...

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Will California's Sea-Level Rise Trigger Use of Eminent Domain?

We've been tracking the impacts of sea-level rise in California, and previously reported on a potential recommendation by the California Coastal Commission to utilize eminent domain for "managed retreat" -- buying or condemning threatened homes and relocating them or tearing them down, which would thereafter free the coastline and preserve the beaches.  That recommendation has been met with widespread opposition.  According to an article in the San Diego Reader, "Don't say retreat when talking about sea rise in California," some local cities in San Diego are taking that option off ...

Lessons in Litigating Inverse Condemnation Claims

Inverse condemnation litigation and liability has become a particularly hot topic in California over the last several years.  Not many attorneys specialize in this area, and there are a number of traps for the unwary lawyers, public agencies, and property owners involved in such litigation.  A recent Court of Appeal decision provides some important lessons for all parties involved, including the risks of settling inverse condemnation claims with insurance companies, and pitfalls in recovering attorneys' fees ...

Court Decision Serves as Important Reminder on Crafting Lease Condemnation Provisions

When entering into a lease agreement, parties rarely contemplate that the property may be subject to a future eminent domain proceeding.  As a result, many times the condemnation provision in the lease is given little thought.  But when a condemnation action does arise, that provision becomes critically important for purposes of determining how the eminent domain award is to be allocated among the property owner and business owner, and any ambiguities are likely to lead to a dispute as to apportionment of the award.  A recent California Court of Appeal decision, Thee Aguila v ...

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Posted in Court Decisions
Crafting Settlement Agreements in Eminent Domain

Like the vast majority of general civil litigation, eminent domain matters usually settle before going to trial.  The resolution is typically documented in either a stipulated judgment or a settlement agreement.  What is unique to eminent domain, however, is that the settlements oftentimes take place before the public project is fully constructed, meaning the parties are resolving their claims based on the "project as proposed," without seeing the actual finished product or fully understanding its impacts on the property.  In documenting a settlement, property owners can ...

Posted in Court Decisions
Utilities Have the Right to Remove Trees Within an Easement

Many public agencies and utilities have easements for water or gas pipelines or electric transmission lines.  Those easements typically contain express rights to construct, operate, and maintain the facilities, including rights of access; but oftentimes the easements are silent on what rights are reserved to the private property owner, including whether the owner can place trees or other improvements within the easement area.  As utilities and public agencies are undertaking more thorough efforts to protect and maintain their rights-of-way, they are commonly seeking to remove ...

California Eminent Domain Report is a one-stop resource for everything new and noteworthy in eminent domain in California. We cover all aspects of eminent domain in California, including condemnation, inverse condemnation, and regulatory takings. We also keep track of current cases, project announcements, budget issues, legislative reform efforts, and report on all major California eminent domain conferences and seminars.

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