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JoAnn Sandifer

Husch Blackwell

sandifer-joannJoAnn Sandifer knows how to stick with things.

She’s been at Husch Blackwell since she did an internship in law school. Recently, she spent eight years working on a case until prevailing at both the

district and appellate court levels.

Sandifer received a law degree from Saint Louis University and specializes in real estate, development and construction law. She also oversees Husch’s appellate group.

Sandifer led Husch’s representation of the Sny Island Levee Drainage District in an eight-year case involving assessment of property values. The district, based in a part of Illinois north of St. Louis, changed its process for determining property assessments. Previously, each property owner had paid the same amount per acre, regardless of what the property was used for. The district instead began assessing properties based on the benefits they received from the levee district. As a result, two railroad companies were given higher bills to pay, and filed federal lawsuits.

At trial, the district court approved the district’s methodology for assessing properties as being fair and equitable.

“It was really a case of first impression because this type of methodology had not been approved by the courts and it’s a very different way of looking at assessments, not just for this levee district, but for levee districts across the country,” Sandifer said. “We feel it will pave the way for other levee districts in terms of changing their approach to these types of assessments.”

The railroads appealed the case to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Sandifer again succeeded in defending the drainage district.

Water was a major factor in the case of the levee district, but most of Sandifer’s cases involve solid ground. As a real estate attorney, the effects of her success can be seen throughout St. Louis. She’s worked on numerous projects in the area, including the forthcoming Loop Trolley, which will take passengers from Delmar Avenue in University City to the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park.

“When I drive down there and see construction going on, it’s nice to know that I was able to help move that project forward, that I’m a small part of that,” Sandifer said.