Eminent Domain Abuse


Eminent domain is the power that is vested in the United States government, the states,
and municipal councils to take private property after just compensation and make it available for
public use. The fifth amendment of the American constitution grants the eminent government
domain (Paul, 2017). Any private property can be made public under eminent domain by the
government, including the airspace, land, and contracts. Other nations have a similar law that has
different terms. For instance, eminent domain is referred to as compulsory purchase in Ireland,
U.K., and New Zealand, while in Canada and Austria; it is called expropriation and compulsory
acquisition, respectively (Gonzalez et al., 2018). When private property is taken by the
government and goes through a condemnation proceeding, the owner has the right to oppose the
acquisition's legitimacy and have the case decided based on a fair market value for the property
during compensation.
Eminent domains occur more often when a public project such as a road or railway has to
be constructed through private land and properties. The owner has to be compensated
appropriately by the government, and if the compensation is not equal to the property's value, the
owner can file a legal case. In eminent domain, it is not just land and properties taken by the
government (Paul, 2017). It also includes investment funds, leases, and stocks for use in
generating finances for public properties. Since 2013, municipalities were given the rights to use
eminent domains where they could buy stocks from individuals at the market price. They would
then sell the stocks at relatively higher prices to generate more income to cater for underwater
mortgages (Somin, 2016). However, the Federal Housing Administration was prohibited from
using eminent domain to finance mortgages. This is after congress passed a law in 2016

(Gonzalez et al., 2018). There have been instances of eminent domain abuse leading to legal
debate about the protocols for compensation.

Background Information

When it comes to fair compensation for the private property owners, there have been
numerous cases where the government has failed to honor the agreement due to eminent domain.
The Supreme Court expanded what should be constituted in the eminent domain to ensure that
cities would look more appealing and communities revitalized (Paul, 2017). This led to the
expansion of highways, airports, trade centers, and other public facilities. People's land and
properties would be destroyed to pave the way for public projects, and the government would
compensate them (Reynolds, 2010). It is illegal to seize private properties in America, and it has
serious legal implications. However, there have been instances where eminent domain has been
abused, and private property owners have not been compensated adequately (Benson, 2010).
There are legal debates that have been rising due to unfair eminent domain invocation. When
people are not fairly compensated, it is termed as inverse condemnation.
Inverse condemnation has affected many people in America as a result of eminent
domain processes. There are many cases in courts where the government has been sued due to
failure to compensate the private property owners (Nichols, 2018). Communities have also sued
the government and the municipalities to pollute the environment and fail to compensate them
effectively. This has forced the authorities to compensate the people to avoid proceedings of
inverse condemnation (Alexander, 2018). During the hurricane Harvey, the army corps of
engineers deliberately flooded houses when they released a torrent from Houston's two reservoirs
(Staley, 2010). The owners of the flooded houses went to court to demand compensation, and
this had to be honored under the inverse condemnation.

Back in 2000, Pfizer pharmaceuticals sought the approval of a research and testing
facility in the town of New London, Connecticut. The pharmaceutical company also needed
more space for its offices and commercial spaces next to the facility that was to be constructed.
This project was approved under the eminent domain due to its promises of more jobs for the
city's people (Miceli & Segerson, 2007). There was a great demand for the jobs, and the town
saw a need to allow Pfizer to construct the facility. The pharmaceutical research and testing
would also generate more tax revenue for the city. The approval saw fifteen private residential
properties being taken by the company as they were sitting on the facility's site. A case was taken
to the court where the main complainants, including Susette Kelo, claimed that the taking of the
land was not under eminent domain (Merriam & Ross, 2006). This is because the facility to be
constructed was not a public project but privately owned.
The New London case followed a serious court battle, but Kelo and other complainants
were forced to vacate the land in 2005 by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of America
ruled that the land and the project were intended for public interests, and thus the approval was
rightfully under the eminent domain (Merriam & Ross, 2006). This case has continued to elicit
mixed reactions as to whether the facility would be classified under eminent domain. Some
people argue that the development was privately owned and thus should not have been classified
under eminent domain(Reynolds, 2010). Others consider the benefits that the facility would
bring were for the public interests. The piece of land where the facility was intended to be
constructed remains to be vacant due to the arguments over eminent domain use (Miceli &
Segerson, 2007). It can therefore be argued that the Supreme Court considers economic
developments as the public purpose, and any project, whether from the government or private

investors, is allowed under eminent domain if its purpose is economic development for the
Eminent domain has been a useful tool in the development of America since history.
Major developments have not been without disrupting people's properties, but they have been
successful with adequate compensation (Nichols, 2018). Road construction and expansion
require more land, and in almost all the areas where it passes, they are privately owned. Other
projects such as airports, railways, schools, hospitals, and similar infrastructures operate
similarly to roads (Gonzalez et al., 2018). Eminent domains have been used by city planners and
leaders to ensure that different public projects are realized to completion. The case of New
London has led to a consideration of economic development as part of the eminent domain
leading to some unscrupulous investors using the opportunity to abuse it with claims of
developing the area economically (Somin, 2016). According to anti-eminent domain arguments,
private property owners have the right to own private properties and eminent domains (Mark,
2010). Private developments should not be forced on people as they benefit the private owner,
and this is a breach of the intended purpose of eminent domain.
There are three main areas where arguments about eminent domain fall. These are
economic, legal, and planning, and each plays a significant purpose in the decision to be taken.
In terms of the legal aspect, every person in America has the right to own private property, and
this is stipulated in the constitution (Miceli, 2011). Some procedures are supposed to legally
adhere to when implementing eminent domain for a project on private property. Bleaching the
law and seizing private property is illegal and prohibited by the constitution. Planning must
ensure that it follows the legal framework set so that the planners can be permitted to carry out
the project successfully (Alexander, 2018). If planning does not follow the laws, it is likely to be

hindered by law and thus delays the nation's developments. Lastly, the economic aspect deals
with the creation of jobs for the community around the projects. If the project does not have any
economic value to the people, it will not have followed the eminent domain's intents.

Why Eminent Domain is bad for Private Entities

Eminent domain was meant to ensure that private properties received just compensation,
which is equivalent to the current market value (Mark, 2010). However, this has taken a new
stride in recent years where the government has been expanding the eminent domain to cover
economic developments that bring more tax revenue and create employment opportunities
(Gonzalez et al., 2018). Constitutionally, the Fifth Amendment does not allow this, leading to
arguments on the validity of eminent domain. It is morally questionable to allow private projects
should be allowed to evacuate people from private properties despite the compensation. To many
anti-eminent domain arguments, allowing private developers to have the power to dictate what a
private property should have is constitutionally wrong (Benson, 2010). The government is
forcing people to accept compensations so that a private project can be established. If this
continues to be allowed by the government, soon, many people will have to move to pave the
way for projects which are owned by private entities just because the projects generate more tax
and create employment.
Private property owners have their rights and can decide what to do with the property at
will. However, if the property sits in an area where public interests outweigh the need to keep the
property, the owner can decide to sell it to the government and get an equivalent amount to the
market value (Mark, 2010). If the owner feels that the value of the property is higher than the
value of selling it, he has the right to refuse or demand more compensation. For a private
developer to be interested in the area where the property is, he needs to negotiate with the owners

and not to use the government to cover the interests as eminent domain. However, this is what
private developers are doing and assume that the project is more beneficial than the rights of the
owner of the property (Alexander, 2018). The wrong use of eminent domain, in this case, is
leading to people being forced to accept compensations from private organizations, and this is
Another problem is that the government today does not give a definite market value to be
used for a given private property that has been seized (Nichols, 2018). When they give a market
value, it is usually lower than the actual value or that which the owner has calculated. Since the
public project has to be carried out, the private property owners are not compensated as required.
People develop their private properties and invest their lifetime works there (Miceli, 2011). They
may have businesses or homes where they consider as part of their lives. When the government
decides to put a public project in the private land, all the works, time used, and investments are
lost. The time used to develop that place, and the connection that the people have cannot be
quantified into a given amount of compensation (Kim et al., 2017). However, the government
does not consider this and values the physical properties leading to under-compensation. This is
evident in the case of Kelo versus New London, where the people have not compensated
appropriately despite the project being privately owned.
The use of eminent domain by the unscrupulous and corrupt justifications on economic
development is unjustified and wrong (Phillips, 2007). Today, the importance of any company
and the provision of rights to it depend on the tax revenue it brings to the municipality, state, and
federal government (Merriam & Ross, 2006). If it is expected to generate less income, it is not
allowed to get private property. For those that are anticipated to bring more taxes, such as in the
case of Pfizer pharmaceuticals, they are covered by the eminent domain and given similar

considerations to those of a public project carried out by the government. Individual rights are
absolute as stipulated by the constitution (Alexander, 2018). Therefore, any private project
should not be allowed to operate despite the benefits it has to the people, as long as it interferes
and destroys a person's livelihood (Schultz, 2009). The private developer is supposed to agree
with the inhabitants of the place without the interference of the government through the use of
the eminent domain.
The idea of public interest and goodness is overrated most of the time when eminent
domain is used in evicting people and compensating them. The public consists of everyone,
including the owner of the private property (Phillips, 2007). Most of the projects, especially
those that are set in highly populated urban areas, lead to mass eviction. In most cases, people
living there are tenants, and when evicted, they are not compensated as compensation goes to the
owner of the property (Gonzalez et al., 2018). The people are forced to start afresh, and this
interferes with the life they were used to. For instance, during the development of San Francisco,
over 4000 people were forced to relocate to other places so that they could create space for the
development of an economic hub in the area (Staley, 2010). These people were living below the
poverty line and to start a new life elsewhere was a big challenge (Benson, 2010). To them, the
project had minimal benefits as they could not afford to visit the hotels and go shopping there. In
most cases, people evicted are the poor, but the rich have to be consulted further before any
project can be established in their properties.

Advantages of Eminent Domain

There are numerous benefits when the government establishes a private property project
for the good of the people. For instance, the development of a transport system enhances the
movement of the people and thus grows economically (Kim et al., 2017). These projects also

create job opportunities for the people around and thus improve their livelihood. When a hospital
is constructed within a neighborhood, the first people to benefit are those living around it
(Reynolds, 2010). Therefore the appropriate use of eminent domain can be beneficial to the
community around it, and when the private property owner has compensated accordingly, he can
be able to start a new life comfortably without any challenges(Schultz, 2009). Since the eminent
domain involves a group of people who own private properties within an area of interest, they
can negotiate for the most favorable value of the properties and thus be compensated collectively
(Miceli, 2011). This minimizes the chances of individual blackmailing government officials so
that their property's value can be inflated.
Community projects are made possible by the appropriate use of the eminent domain. If
the constitution did not empower the eminent domain, the government would have a hard time
initiating a project or expanding an existing one. People would refuse to sell their properties and
refuse any offers of compensation given to them (Alexander, 2018). Others would ask for huge
and exaggerated prices due to the anticipated long-term plans for the area. Eminent domain gives
the government all the necessary powers to force people to give their private properties and then
compensate them with an equivalent amount to the properties' market value (Miceli, 2011).
However, the government is prohibited from seizing any private property without compensating
the owners.

Observations and Recommendations for Policy Changes

It is evident that there has been numerous exploitation of the eminent domain policy by
the private developers with the help of the government. The eminent domain covers government
projects that are of public interest and not those that are privately owned (Kim et al., 2017). The
consideration of a company's economic value is wrong, unethical, and unconstitutional as it

creates avenues for exploitation of the policy. Although a private project may have numerous
benefits to the people, the biggest intent is to benefit the private developer and not the people.
Therefore, it is recommended that the Supreme Court revisits Kelo's ruling versus New London
and declare that any private project should not be put under the eminent domain regardless of its
benefits. The private developer should talk with the property owners and request them to sell the
land to him. The owners have the constitutional right to refuse to sell their properties.
There are many cases in court for the government's failure to compensate people
appropriately according to the eminent domain. This is occurring due to under-valuation of the
properties leading to poor compensations. It is wrong to make people suffer due to a public
project that is intended to be beneficial to them. Rather, the government should reach a
consensus with the private property owners on the value of the properties so that they feel that
they have been compensated appropriately (Benson, 2010). Everyone deserves fair compensation
after the government has taken his private property for development. This will ensure that
community projects continue to be developed for the benefit of the people.


Eminent domain enables the government to acquire private properties and compensate
the owners accordingly. It advocates for fair and just compensation, which is equal to the market
value of the property. However, the government has expanded the scope of eminent domain to
incorporate the economic value of a project regardless of the owner. This has led to arguments
on the use of the eminent domain as it has been considered to be abused by the government.
Allowing private developers to enjoy the property owner's benefits is wrong as this could result
in the poor's mass eviction to create space for the rich. The eminent domain appears to have lost
its intended purpose, and without proper changes to the policy, it could be exploited, leading to

more suffering for the people. When used appropriately by the government, it will continue to
benefit communities through projects such as schools, hospitals, roads, and other essential



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