Constitutional Law: Eminent Domain - Essay Example

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Constitutional Law: Eminent Domain Introduction In relation to property rights and responsibilities, constitutional crisis at times crops up. In this paper, it is proposed to examine State‘s power of eminent domain in the light of the recent decision of the U.S…
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Constitutional Law: Eminent Domain
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Earlier it was the stand of the U.S. Supreme Court that the right to own property was “primary object of the social compact” and “one of the natural, inherent, and unalienable rights of man”. The underlying concepts to these rights are exclusivity and alienability. Exclusivity refers to the right of the property owners to make choices about the usage of their property in a reasonable manner and alienability is their right to sell their or otherwise dispose of their property. These rights are subject to certain obligations such as payment of taxes and restricted use of their property with a view to protect the rights of others. As already mentioned, the right to property is subject to the power of the government to take the property for public use. This is called the power of eminent domain. This is also referred to as “condemnation” or “taking” to signify taking away of something from a landowner which he/she cannot refuse. Though the U.S. constitution has no provision for eminent domain power, its invoking by any government has never been seriously resisted. Constitution’s silence about the eminent domain does not mean that the government has no power but rather it signifies the implied existence of that power. The constitutional limits to exercise this power have however been the subject of interpretation by the courts and debate. Courts have always supported the legislatures taking the private property for public good....
The court held that rigid formulas and intrusive scrutiny could not come in the way of legislature’s ultimate goal of the taking of property for public good. It also clarified that legislatures have the discretionary power to broadly or narrowly use the power of eminent domain. Thus, the respective State governments are authorized to invoke the power for the purposes of roads, public buildings, schools, parks, utility lines, and environmental protection. (Scott) As part of the exercising the power of eminent domain, the Government or its authorized body has to contact the property owner for a negotiated settlement. If no agreement could be reached with the owner, the authority of the Government can apply to court for the condemnation action. The authority should deposit the full amount of compensation in court. The owner can withdraw that amount and can still demand more compensation (Szypszak) and (Kelo v City of New London). The government’s power of restriction on the use of private property on the grounds of public health and safety need not be compensated as it is a policing power. But overly aggressive restrictions can amount to regulatory taking as was held in the well known case Pennsylvania Coal Co v Mahon (1922). If police power is extended too far, it would be the end of private property and hence the owner is entitled for compensation if the restriction goes beyond reasonable limits or ‘too far’ in the words of the court. Courts are burdened with the responsibility of determining when restrictions or regulations “go too far”. In subsequent decisions a frame work has developed to distinguish between what requires compensation and what does not require. As such, prohibiting construction of an office building over ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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