So it's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and I thought I should spend some time thinking about what I'm thankful for (apart from Cal's victory at Stanford last Saturday). Here's a list of three things an eminent domain attorney can be thankful for:
1. I Live in a Country With Eminent Domain. I know, who spends time being thankful for eminent domain? But think about it. In many places, the government just takes property, paying nothing. Even in this country, before it was this country, when the Pilgrims took land from existing Native American tribes just after inviting them over for a Thanksgiving feast. I'm sure the Native Americans did not feel a turkey dinner qualified as just compensation. OK, so this may not be quite how the story of the first Thanksgiving played out, but you get my point -- and I am thankful that I live in a country where the government is required to pay just compensation for private property. (If you really want to get lost in the internet debate about Thanksgiving, you can spend hours.)
2. I Live in a State With Business-Goodwill Recovery. In California, we now take for granted that business owners displaced by eminent domain may seek compensation for lost business goodwill. But the courts have routinely held that this is not a constitutional requirement, and until California adopted Code of Civil Procedure section 1263.510 in 1975, business owners devastated by eminent domain were largely out of luck. Even today, most states do not provide a mechanism for businesses to recover lost goodwill.
3. I Live in a County That Has Used Eminent Domain in Creative, and Helpful, Ways. I live in South Orange County, and I work in Irvine. I take the San Joaquin Hills Toll Road to work. Yes, it costs me money, and I'd prefer that it were free, but without the creativity of the toll road system, the road simply would not exist. And, since it used to take me as much as an hour (or more) to get to work -- and it now takes 18 minutes -- I am thankful Orange County has been at the forefront of such creative financing vehicles, and that it has used eminent domain where necessary to make these ambitious projects a reality.
And, finally, I guess I'm back where I started: I'm thankful for eminent domain. After all, without eminent domain, I (and all the other eminent domain attorneys out there) would have a really tough time making a living.
Rick Rayl is an experienced litigator on a broad range of complex civil litigation issues. His practice is concentrated primarily on eminent domain, inverse condemnation, and other real-estate-valuation disputes. His public ...
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