Monday, October 31, 2005

Just Compensation: Jurors v. Judges?

Todd Zywicki:
"A reader sends along this article reporting on a $7.7 million judgment awarded to a small business owner in San Diego whose property was condemned in order to make way for a new luxury hotel. The article implies that this was an unexpectedly high award. His lawyer 'called the verdict a 'home run' ... and important for other property owners.' The city had offered $3 million before trial. The city has not announced whether it will appeal.

Given the public choice and other political failures that are endemic to use of the eminent domain power for the benefit of private interests, and the unwillingness of the Supreme Court to do anything about it, it will be interesting to see if verdicts like this signify a beginning for jurors to step up and become more vigilant in ensuring that private property owners are being fully compensated for Kelo-style takings. If so, that would be an interesting and heartening development."
This seems an important area for discussion and analysis. As I've noted in other posts, it seems government not only uses its power of eminent domain to take property, but it also threatens the use of its eminent domain power, perhaps in an effort to get owners to sell out. I suspect owners often see the compensation awarded as "just" by the courts as significantly less than just.

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