What Does Eminent Domain Mean?

Eminent domain is an inherent right of a government to take private property and use it for public use. This right is deemed to be inherent because governments are typically sovereign over all the land within their borders. Therefore, given the superior dominion that the government enjoys over the land within its border, it can take private property. This is a very basic definition that is derived from historical concepts of national sovereignty.  

            During the medieval period, kings were deemed to own all the land in their kingdom. The kings simply let people “rent” the land through what is known as the feudal system. The modern concept of eminent domain is an off shoot of this feudal concept. However, the United States and the state governments have curtailed the original concept by placing restrictions on the government’s ability to simply take private property. Those restrictions are commonly referred to in the “Takings Clause” in the United States Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. First, the government must take for a “public purpose.” Second, the government must provide “just compensation” for the taking.

            The government enjoys the inherent right of eminent domain also because the government essentially creates property rights. Since the government creates property rights, the government can have the power to destroy those property rights. Since the government controls the right of eminent domain, the government can also allow certain other entities to exercise eminent domain rights. This is typically done by passing laws that allow other entities to exercise eminent domain. In North Carolina, the General Assembly has passed laws that allow not only the government to exercise eminent domain, but also large utility companies.

            Eminent domain is a broader term than “condemnation.” Condemnation is a part of the process where the government exercises eminent domain. In other words, the government exercises eminent domain by condemning the property in the courts. This is done by filing a “condemnation lawsuit” in the district court where the property is located.

Our firm focuses on three practice areas: Disability, Personal Injury, and Eminent Domain. Every practice area has attorneys who have expertise in their respective area of practice. 

Chad Brown is a North Carolina Board Certified Social Security disability law specialist. Mr. Brown helps Social Security disability claimants at all stages of the disability process. He also works with people that have Long Term Disability denials and with people that are injured by drugs and defective medical products.

Your Questions Answered

What Is the Public Good for Purposes of Eminent Domain?

The question above asks a question that seems to coincide with one of the two main restrictions that the constitution places on the government before it can take private property. However, what is being referred to here as “public good” is actually referred to as...

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Can Eminent Domain Be Used for Economic Development?

This question was brought to many Americans’ attention in 2005 after the decision for Kelo v. New London was handed down by the United States Supreme Court. In that case, the Court stated that government could condemn property and convey it to private entities for...

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Can Eminent Domain Be Challenged?

The state and federal government do have the inherent right to exercise eminent domain. This inherent right is not expressly given in either the United States Constitution or the North Carolina Constitution. However, those documents do act to restrict the government’s...

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