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

Can Eminent Domain Take Your House?

The question assumes that eminent domain is a person or entity that can do something. Eminent domain is a tool, not an entity or person. It is analogous to a specific type of wrench that allows a mechanic to perform a specific task. The idea that the government may...

read more

Can Eminent Domain Be Used for Private Use?

Although to some it might seem inherently wrong for the government to take a private citizen’s property and give it to a private entity, that can indeed happen. The United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London, a landmark Supreme Court case in 2005, established...

read more

Can Eminent Domain be Stopped?

When challenging an action for eminent domain, the property owner generally has two avenues. The two avenues that can be used to stop or challenge a taking are found in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. First, the property owner can challenge the...

read more

Free Consultation