Photo of the “Kelo House” in Kelo v. City of New London.
[Ellis] has been fighting for landowners who have had their property taken by the government since 2009. Ellis told listeners that for years before Kelo, attorneys like himself labored in relative obscurity because eminent domain wasn’t on the radar of property owners. Kelo changed that.
Ellis said that for the vast majority of Texans whose property is condemned, the fight is not about the right to take but rather whether the entity is providing just compensation for the take itself.
“If a landowner’s property is taken in order to benefit the public, can we make that landowner whole for the taking? I’m here to tell you I don’t think that happens in your typical condemnation case,” Ellis told listeners.
Ellis concluded by saying that a legislative fix so landowners could truly be made whole in condemnation proceedings would be one of the biggest benefits to landowners. He added that a handful of other issues also need to be dealt with. For example, unlike with roads or high voltage power lines, there is no process for public input for people whose property is taken for the routing of oil and gas pipelines. He noted too, that landowners battling a “for profit” pipeline company can have other challenges.
“If there is a jury verdict that goes against the pipeline company and it’s upheld on appeal, some pipeline companies will say they have no obligation to provide security to actually pay the judgment. They tell landowners ‘Yes, you beat us at court; you’ve fought us for years; now come and chase the money.’”
In some instances it starts an entire second lawsuit, Ellis said.
“There is work to be done to try and even the scales,” he concluded.
“Texas’ Eminent Domain Policy Lacking, But Better Than Some”, by Colleen Schreiber, Livestock Weekly, Vol. 67 – No. 6, San Angelo, Texas (Feb. 12, 2015)