Eminent domain lawyer stands tall as ever more

Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

Darius Dynkowski isn’t one to name-drop, but if he was . . .

How about Frank Sinatra for starters? Then there was the time that he rubbed elbows with boxing great Muhammad Ali, in his prime perhaps the best-known sports figure on the planet. For good measure, there was Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.

Nice company to keep, for sure.

But not in a legal light for Dynkowski, a partner in the eminent domain law firm headed by Alan Ackerman in Bloomfield Hills.

Instead, Dynkowski came to know the trio of icons while serving in his official capacity at The Palace of Auburn Hills, site of the cavernous arena that is the current but not future home of the Detroit Pistons.

Dynkowski, you see, once was a bouncer there, more definitively described as part of a “two-man extraction team” that was hired to preserve the peace at The Palace and to protect high-profile celebrities from the masses. It was a job that definitely had its share of perks.

“I worked there for eight years (from 1988-96) and I had the opportunity to meet some phenomenal people – and, of course, some not-so-wonderful people,” says Dynkowski of the invariable ups and downs of being a bouncer. “The celebrities, the players were, for the most part, very nice and down-to-earth. They were great.”

The fans, especially those who had imbibed great quantities, not nearly as much.

“At certain games or concerts, we could be busy,” says Dynkowski of his “extraction” duties. “Sometimes our presence was good enough to do the job. Other times, it required more. Still, all in all it was a great job. The hours were flexible to accommodate my school schedule and I got to see a ton of games and concerts. It was special.”

Now, nearly 20 years into his legal career, Dynkowski casts a different presence. He is 70 pounds trimmer than his “bouncing” days, weight that he has peeled off his 6-foot, 4-inch frame while eating smarter and exercising more. He has gone from a 42-inch waist size to a trim 34 through a regimen of running and avoidance of all the calorie-laden “good stuff” that packs on the pounds.

On the legal side of things, he more than pulls his weight in the world of eminent domain law, teaming with his esteemed law partner to form one of the top firms that specializes in the field of condemnation proceedings. The firm of Ackerman, Ackerman & Dynkowski has offices in Bloomfield Hills, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C., and “exclusively represents property owners, never condemning authorities.”

His interest in eminent domain work was sparked while a student at Detroit College of Law, where he was part of the second to last graduating class in 1996 before the school moved to its new campus at Michigan State University.

“I’ve always been interested in real estate law and probably would have been a real estate broker if I hadn’t entered the law,” Dynkowski says. “We derive a great deal of satisfaction from representing clients who have the odds stacked against them when going up against the government or utility companies. They are the definite underdogs in these eminent domain cases and we will go to great lengths to make sure that they are fairly compensated for the loss of their property.”

Citing an example, Dynkowski pointed to a case some six years ago in which the Oakland County Road Commission attempted to condemn a section of a gas station property for a road-widening project. The Road Commission’s $10,000 offer for the property was not met with enthusiasm by the gas station owner, who turned to the Ackerman firm for help in reaching a suitable settlement. The result: $1.24 million for the gas station owner.

Not long after, the firm concluded an 18-year battle over rightful compensation for a consortium of property owners impacted by work on the M-5 highway corridor in Oakland County. The case was settled for $18 million, far from the $1.4 million that the Michigan Department of Transportation estimated that the properties were worth.

Of course, over the years Dynkowski and Ackerman have been busy representing various clients in Detroit, including those affected by plans to build a new bridge crossing to Canada. Years ago, the firm also went to bat for Detroit Marine Terminals when the City of Detroit initiated condemnation proceedings on the company’s waterfront property as part of plans to build a new municipal water purification plant. A $4 million offer by the municipality was rejected, due in large part to the “unique characteristics of waterfront property” and the “premium” prices that are paid for such parcels, according to Dynkowski. Factor in a 5-foot wide dock that “extended down all the way into bedrock” and soon the firm had secured a $20 million settlement, five times the original offer.

A past president of the Polish American Bar Association, Dynkowski is a native of Hamtramck and graduated from De La Salle High School in Warren. Married and the father of three children, he has taught classes at Detroit Mercy Law and somehow juggles up to 70 to 80 cases at any given time. And yet, Dynkowski is undaunted by life’s challenges.

“I guess that I’ve discovered that there is always room on the plate for one more thing,” he says.