Be it the State, a county or a municipality, governments like to talk tough when invoking the right of eminent domain and initiating condemnation proceedings in circuit court. Yet there is a number of things the government has to do before it can even file suit. In many cases, the government has been sloppy in dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. Only experienced legal counsel for the owner can expose these flaws for the Court, and in doing so protect the owner’s constitutional right to receive just compensation for the property interests being taken.
For those owners who do not hire experienced condemnation counsel, government abuse of the eminent domain power rarely makes the front page. Occasionally though, the government harms so many owners in the project’s footprint that the press tells the tale – reporters spreading the word of the cavalier manner in which the government has wielded its power.
In Illinois, this happened with the Illiana expressway. The State took innumerable properties it did not need, doing so for a project it would never start. More recently, in Wisconsin, governments abused their eminent domain power; and once again, property owners were the victim.
As the Chicago Sun-Times reported, “Foxconn promised in 2017 to create 13,000 well-paying jobs and invest $10 billion in a 20 million square-foot facility to build giant video displays.” In catering to these private interests, “state and local governments in Wisconsin unnecessarily used eminent domain to take homes and farms for a plant that turned out not to need all that land. Taxpayers were hit up for unneeded new roads. Thousands of acres of land now sit empty.” Chicago Sun Times Editorial Board, “‘Foxconned’ into harming the environment,” November 26, 2021.
While courts do not normally second-guess the necessity of a project, experienced condemnation counsel for the owner can often reveal for the court how the government’s condemnation lawsuit is a house of cards built on a foundation of sand.
It might not make the papers, or get the suit dismissed for good, but receiving the just compensation guaranteed by the constitution can only occur after the judge and jury become aware of just how cavalier the government has been wielding its eminent domain power – like building a road to nowhere.
USA.gov. (n.d.). U.S. Constitution – Fifth Amendment | Resources … Constitution Annotated. Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://constitution.congress.gov/constitution/amendment-5/
Board, C. S. T. E. (2021, November 26). ‘foxconned’ into harming the environment. Times. Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://chicago.suntimes.com/2021/11/26/22800959/foxconn-environment-wisconsin-racine-foxconned-lake-michigan-great-lakes-editorial