Stopping Eminent Domain
The government’s right to confiscate private property and convert it to public use is called eminent domain. According to the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the government can take private property for public use but only if it provides “just compensation” to the property owner. Examples of what generally qualifies as a public use include building a school, widening a highway, and imposing certain land-use regulations. The best way to think of the Fifth Amendment public use requirement is that a property taking must benefit the public as opposed to particular individuals.
Under certain circumstances, a property owner may have the ability to challenge a proposed eminent domain taking in court and be able to keep some if not all of their land. The following is a brief look at some of the arguments that a property owner could potentially make in an eminent domain proceeding:
Government Agency Lacks the Authority
A government agency that seeks to acquire land through eminent domain must have the authority to do so. The authority to exercise eminent domain is generally granted by statute. A California eminent domain lawyer could, for example, introduce evidence showing that a government agency lacks the authority it thought it had.
Taking Not for Public Use
While the public use requirement discussed above has historically been interpreted quite broadly it is nonetheless still possible to successfully challenge a proposed property taking on that ground.
The Taking Is Not Necessary
Even if the government can establish that a taking is for public use, the property owner could argue that their land simply isn’t necessary for the government’s project. They and their California eminent domain lawyer would have to present evidence showing that the project could be completed without taking the land at issue.
The Government Has Not Negotiated in Good Faith or Complied with its Statutory Obligations When Making a Precondemnation Offer
A considerable amount of eminent domain litigation concerns the value of the affected property and whether the amount of money offered to the owner complies with the just compensation requirement of the Fifth Amendment. California law requires that the government make a legitimate offer of just compensation based upon an approved appraisal prior to initiating a condemnation proceeding. Failure to strictly comply with this requirement is grounds for dismissing the entire proceeding. California law also imposes an affirmative obligation on a public entity seeking to condemn private property to seek to acquire that property first by negotiation. “The public entity shall make every reasonable effort to acquire expeditiously real property by negotiation.” The fundamental precept of any good faith negotiations is that it be predicated on a legitimate pre-condemnation offer. An inadequate pre-condemnation offer could also be grounds for challenging the public agency’s right to condemn.
A California eminent domain lawyer should ideally be consulted at the outset of any eminent domain litigation to both ensure the property owner does not waive any rights and evaluate the legitimacy of all potential challenges that may exist.
Eminent Domain Help is Available – From Palmieri, Hennessey & Leifer LLP
Being notified that you might lose your property to eminent domain can understandably be quite shocking news. You may have spent years of your life growing a business only to discover that you could be forced to relocate. Like most others in your situation, you are probably unsure of what steps to take and what your legal rights are. Palmieri, Hennessey &Leifer LLP is a highly respected law firm in Irvine, CA, that has a proud history of representing both property owners and renters with respect to a wide range of eminent domain matters. Every California eminent domain lawyer on our team is a dedicated client advocate who is well-versed in all aspects of negotiation and litigation. The lawyers at Palmieri, Hennessey & Leifer have worked on hundreds of eminent domain cases in California and can leverage that experience to help you get the compensation you deserve.