Generally, any sovereign government may exercise the inherent right of eminent domain. Eminent domain is an inherent right that is deemed to exist automatically within the borders of a sovereign government. A government is regarded as “sovereign” if it has the power to make laws and is regarded as the supreme authority within an area. Therefore, the different state governments in the United States, along with the federal government, may exercise eminent domain.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court illustrated this point regarding the government’s right to exercise eminent domain in the case Boom Co. v. Patterson. In Boom Co. v. Patterson, the United States Supreme Court stated that eminent domain “requires no constitutional recognition; it is an attribute of sovereignty.” Therefore, the state and federal government may exercise the right of eminent domain simply because they exist and are recognized as sovereign. This idea also allows local municipalities and county governments.
However, some states, like North Carolina, have created laws that allow other non-governmental entities to exercise eminent domain. Under Chapter 40A of the North Carolina General Statutes, private entities may exercise the right of eminent domain if certain specifications are met. The exercise of eminent domain must be for a stated public use or benefit. In other words, the purposes for which they can exercise eminent domain rights must be found in the General Statutes. Before they can file a condemnation lawsuit, they must try to negotiate for the purchase of the property with the private owner.
Usually, the private entities that exercise eminent domain are utility companies, railroads, and other large corporations. However, private schools also have the ability, based on the statute, to exercise eminent domain for specific purposes such as ensuring safe drinking water gets to the school. Also, trucking companies and union bus station companies (organized under the authority of the North Carolina Utilities Commission) can exercise eminent domain to construct bus stations where the town has over 60,000 people.