Georgia appeals court rules for Clark Atlanta in land dispute

Clark Atlanta University should regain ownership of 13 acres it deeded to Morris Brown College more than 75 years ago, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

Morris Brown sold the land in 2014 to the Atlanta Development Authority, now called Invest Atlanta, according to court documents. The agency leased the property, along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, back to the financially-strapped college.

The 1940 agreement, though, included a clause that ownership would revert back to Clark Atlanta if Morris Brown ceased using the property for educational purposes.

Morris Brown filed for bankruptcy in 2012, facing $30 million in debts. To regain its financial standing and academic accreditation, the school sold most of the campus properties to Invest Atlanta and Friendship Baptist Church.

Clark Atlanta sued to regain ownership of the 13 acres.

Invest Atlanta argued a Georgia Supreme Court ruling last year did not consider the effect of the lease allowing Morris Brown’s continued use of the property. The appeals court ruled Morris Brown’s lease of the property was “nugatory.”

“We’re very, very happy (about the court ruling),” Clark Atlanta president Ronald A. Johnson said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Johnson said he will discuss with board members what should be done with the property. The property, he said, includes a former home of W.E.B. Du Bois.

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