Luke Ellis is recognized as one of Texas’s top lawyers practicing in the area of eminent domain. He focuses exclusively on representing Texas property owners facing condemnation and eminent domain proceedings. His clients include Fortune 500 companies, individual owners of shopping centers, office buildings, convenience store / gas stations, industrial centers, developing subdivisions, ranches, residential and recreational tracts, and vacant land. Mr. Ellis has broad trial experience and has enjoyed success in other areas of civil litigation.
Mr. Ellis graduated with honors from the University of Texas, receiving a B.A. in political science in 1997. He obtained his law degree in 2002 from the University of Texas School of Law, where he was a member of the Texas Law Review. Following graduation, he served as a law clerk on the Texas Supreme Court. He is admitted to practice in Texas (2003), New York (2002), and the U.S. District Courts for the Southern, Northern, Western, and Eastern Districts of Texas. He is also a member of the American Bar Association, Texas Young Lawyers Association, the Austin Bar Association, and Austin Young Lawyers Association.
Mr. Ellis has received several awards recognizing both his exceptional abilities as a lawyer and his substantial contributions to the community: the Austin Bar Association’s award as Austin Outstanding Young Lawyer for 2009, the Austin Under 40 Award in the Legal Category in 2008 (www.austinunder40.org), and the Austin United Way’s 2007 Young Professional of the Year. The magazine Law and Politics has repeatedly recognized him as a “Rising Star”—both in eminent domain (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) and in commercial litigation (2006, 2007).
Mr. Ellis is the author of the Austin Chronicle’s “The Common Law,” an informational monthly column about everyday legal issues, and for five years he hosted News8Austin’s weekly television news segment of the same name. He served on the Board of Directors for Austin Habitat for Humanity for seven years (2006-2012) and served two terms as board president. He participated in a post-tsunami home building project in Sri Lanka with Habitat for Humanity International and is a founding member, former chair, and advisory board member of Austin Habitat Young Professionals. He previously served as a co-chair and guest lecturer for the People’s Law School, an annual Austin Bar Association event designed to teach people about their legal rights. A 2007 graduate of Leadership Austin, Mr. Ellis served on the advisory committee for the first ever Leadership Austin Emerge class.
B.A., Political Science, University of Texas at Austin, 1997 (with honors).
J.D., University of Texas School of Law, 2002 (with honors, Texas Law Review).
Represents multiple landowners against electric power companies such as Oncor, Lone Star, and Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) (Lampasas, Guadalupe, Comal, Williamson, Mills, Comanche, Erath, Johnson, Wise, Wichita, Bell Counties)
Represents multiple landowners in Bell, McLennan, and Hill Counties against the State of Texas’ widening of I-35.
Represents multiple landowners in Greater Dallas-Fort Worth (Tarrant, Johnson, Ellis, Denton, Wise, Van Zandt Counties) against pipeline easement acquisitions.
Represents multiple Fortune 500 business against pipeline easement corridor acquisitions in Greater Houston (Harris and Chambers Counties).
Represents multiple landowners in Central Texas facing a water & wastewater pipeline easement acquisitions (Travis County).
Represented hotel and business owners against the State of Texas’ (North Tarrant Express – NTE) expansion of US Highways 183 & 121.
Represented convenience store / gas station against State of Texas’ I-35 expansion.
Represented landowner against the State of Texas in relation to a new SH-45-SE tollway project.
Represented multiple landowners against the State of Texas’s SH-130 project (segments 5 & 6).
Conducted numerous jury trials, special commissioners hearings, and related expert and fact witness depositions in eminent-domain and condemnation matters.
PUBLICATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS
“High Voltage Power Lines and Eminent Domain From the Landowner’s Perspective,” Hill Country Alliance Workshop, Fredericksburg, September 6, 2014.
“Legal Issues for Texas Civil Engineers – Eminent Domain and Condemnation,” Austin Civil Engineers Presentation, August 13, 2014.
“The Fundamentals of Eminent Domain,” Hidalgo County Bar Association Luncheon, July 2, 2014.
“Property Rights and Eminent Domain,” Hood County Bar Association Luncheon, Granbury, May 23, 2014.
“Land Ownership as a Keystone Right: Five issues in Condemnations for Pipeline Easements,” co-presented with Justin Hodge, Dallas Bar Association Luncheon, Dallas, June 18, 2013.
“Landownership as a Keystone Right: Eminent domain and easements,” San Antonio Bar Association-Natural Resources Section Luncheon, San Antonio, January 9, 2014.
“Texas Condemnation The Good and The Bad: From the Landowner’s Perspective,” 12th Annual Policy Orientation for Texas Legislature, Austin, January 9, 2014.
“Landownership as a Keystone Right: Five Issues in Condemnations for Pipeline Easements,” co-authored with Justin Hodge, 39th Annual Ernest E. Smith Oil, Gas and Mineral Law Conference, Houston, March 2013.
“The Common Law,” Austin Chronicle (more than 350 columns since 2003).
“The Common Law,” News8Austin (approximately 150 television segments since 2004).
“Eminent Domain 101—The Nuts and Bolts of How the Condemnation Process Works,” Flick Commercial Real Estate Report, Sept.–Oct. 2007.
Lecturer, CLE International – Texas Eminent Domain Conference (2007 & 2008).
Star-Telegram — Fort Worth, Texas:
August 12, 2014
Luke Ellis, an Austin attorney specializing in eminent domain cases, said operators refuse to show in court why their pipelines should be common carriers, claiming it is proprietary information.
Getting that information can be difficult.
“There needs to be more meat on the bone to prove common carrier status,” Ellis said. “There isn’t any routing process that exists. … They can just pick the way they want.”
Brady and Ellis suggest that a system similar to that used by the Texas Public Utility Commission for locating power lines might be warranted.
Everyone affected by a power line location is notified and has a chance to talk about it. Hearings are held before anything happens. The PUC has used this process for years, they said.
Cannon, however, said there is nothing to keep a landowner from going to the courthouse.
“The rule does not change the landowners’ right to take this to District Court, if they want to,” Cannon said.
Ellis said that is true. But though he persuaded a Johnson County jury this year to order a pipeline operator to pay $1.6 million for an easement to cross property in Mansfield — 20 times more than the company offered originally — that case started in 2007 and appeals may take two more years, he said.
In the meantime, the pipeline was built and buried.
Houston Chronicle — Houston, Texas:
May 22, 2014
Disputes between pipeline companies wanting to pay the lowest possible price and landowners demanding the maximum possible remuneration have led to a booming business for Luke Ellis and other attorneys who specialize in eminent domain cases. Ellis says too many landowners don’t get compensated for the damages to the adjacent property they own, which could lose value by having a pipeline nearby.
“We’re seeing a much larger number of pipeline acquisition and takings cases, and we’re certainly seeing a lot more landowners becoming more knowledgeable about what their rights might be,” Ellis said. “The typical impediment to getting a case resolved is a drastically different view of how the pipeline damages the remaining property.”
Ellis said cases typically go to trial before a county court-of-law jury. Both sides present evidence for why their valuation is the best.
Star-Telegram — Fort Worth, Texas:
May 20, 2014
“One of the big issues was determining how much land does the landowner own and its value,” Ellis said. The case was eventually settled.
Those kinds of challenges would certainly come into play in a battle with the bureau.
“I would tell folks to be patient, but if it appears the federal government is going forward to assert claims, I would tell folks they need to hire a lawyer,” Ellis said.
If the agency moves forward with its assertion that this has always been public land, Ellis said, title searches would probably have to be conducted all the way back to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Landowners would be wise to pool resources for a costly legal battle, some suggest.
“You’ve got to win on two fronts,” Ellis said. “On a takings claim, you’ve got to prove an ownership right to this property. And if you win on that front, you’ve got to prove what are your damages.”
Read more: “Red River Ranchers Fear Losing Land to Feds.”
Stop the Pipeline:
July 22, 2014
“This verdict sends a strong message that pipeline easements often cause significant damages to property beyond the easement area,” says Austin-based eminent domain attorney Luke Ellis of Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP, who represented the family partnership at trial. “Unfortunately, many Texas landowners don’t realize that they have a constitutional right to seek just compensation for such damages.”
Texas Tribune — Austin, Texas:
June 18, 2014
Luke Ellis, who represented the Johnson County landowner in its case against Peregrine, said, “I think that juries are becoming much more sensitive to the potential negative impacts that pipeline easements can cause to property.”
Read more: “Pipeline Companies Paying More to Cross Private Land.”