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Court Access Could Be
Eased in Eminent Domain Cases
The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill by voice vote July 12 (2006) that
would streamline access to federal courts for people challenging government
attempts to take their property under eminent domain. The bill, H.R. 4772,
sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, would enable challengers to quickly
take their suits to federal court rather than first go through the state
court system. Under the bill, a lawsuit filed to challenge a taking under
the Constitution "shall be ripe for adjudication by the [federal] district
courts upon a final decision ... which causes actual and concrete injury to
the party seeking redress."
The bill would allow developers to challenge local and state governments in
federal court over the conditions they impose on a proposed development. An
amendment by Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., adopted by voice vote, would allow
developers to challenge federal agencies in federal court over conditions
The measure stands a good chance of moving through the House, which passed
another anti-Kelo measure (H.R. 4128) last November that would bar state and
local governments from using eminent domain to take property for use in
private economic development. Governments that violate the law would be
barred from collecting federal money for economic development projects for
two years. That bill passed, 376-38. But a related Senate bill (S. 1313) has
seen no action. Chabot's bill has no Senate companion.
New Jersey's Eminent
Domain Laws Account for Business Concerns
Two bills currently pending in the New Jersey Senate would require
compensation for business income loss, business "goodwill" loss and
"replacement value" of a home in the state's eminent domain proceedings.
Senate Bill 2092 would require the government to compensate landowners for
the loss of business income in eminent domain proceedings. The bill also
requires that homeowners be compensated for the "replacement value" of their
home. Replacement value is defined as the approximate value of a home of
similar size and quality under comparable conditions, within the
municipality and within a reasonable distance of the property being
Senate Bill 2088 would require the government to compensate business owners
for the value of "good will" that is lost during a condemnation proceeding.
The bill defines "goodwill" to mean the benefits that accrue to a business
as a result of its location, reputation for dependability, skill or quality,
and any other circumstances resulting in probable retention of old or
acquisition of new patronage.
The full text of S.B. 2092, sponsored by Sen. Diane B. Allen, is available
at www.njleg.state.nj.us/2006/Bills/S2500/2092_I1.HTM. The full text of S.B.
2088, sponsored by Sen. Stephen M. Sweeney, is available at
www.njleg.state.nj.us/2006/Bills/S2500/2088_I1.HTM. Both have been referred
to the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.