Protecting citizens’ right to open and accessible courts

The North Carolina Republican Attorneys Association was pleased to host a panel discussion on October 17, 2011 at Campbell Law School in Downtown Raleigh regarding House Bill 8, Eminent Domain.

Representative Paul Stam, Mr. Bob Crumley, Mr. Francis Rasberry, and North Carolina Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake, Jr.

The panelists included North Carolina House Member, Representative Paul Stam and Deputy City Attorney at Raleigh, Mr. Francis Rasberry.  The panelists discussed how the amendment will address the available uses for condemned property and its requirement to pay just compensation for the loss suffered by the person of interest.  Representative Stam opened the discussion with a news article regarding China’s eminent domain policy from The Economist, “I’d rather be a hammer.”  In China those who choose to fight for their homes are called “nail households.”  The article recounts one family’s struggle to maintain their private properties rights against the collective interest in development.  A full copy of this article can be found at http://www.economist.com/node/8968483.

Representative Paul Stam, Mr. Bob Crumley, Mr. Francis Rasberry, and North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby

Represenative Stam then explained House Bill 8, Eminent Domain, its protection of the property owner’s right to a jury trial, and the difference between public “use” and public “benefit”.  Public “use”, or “purpose”, is where the government seizes land with the intent to develop something for the public’s actual use.  Public “use” includes utility and other government functions.  In contrast, public “benefit” occurs where you have an economic development that merely results in some public good, such as a private company building a warehouse that may bring jobs to an area.  See Kelo v. City of New London 545 U.S. 469, 125 S.Ct. 2655 (2005).

Mr. Rasberry began by highlighting the usual good nature of government acquisitions, noting that most government acquisitions end in an amicable settlement.  Mr. Rasberry further explained that the typical condemnation case involves conventional public infrastructure, such as sewer and water lines, parks, fire stations, convention centers, greenways, and public amphitheaters.  Mr. Rasberry characterized the government’s acquisition of property as a thoughtful, balancing process between community needs and private property rights.  Most government acquisitions are triggered by the community’s need for development.  Regularly, private developer funding will provide the upfront financing for water lines, sewer lines, and other necessary utilities connecting to the business or private development.  Even with an infrastructure that will be used by the public, there is a great deal of co-mingling of private use and benefit with public projects in the beginning that may also necessitate the use of government’s eminent domain.  In concluding his opening statements, Mr. Rasberry proposed the need for further examination of whether there truly is an obvious bright-line distinction between what is a public use and public benefit.

The panelists further examine several North Carolina cases and what exactly “just compensation” should include.  To obtain a recording of the discussion in its entirety, please contact admin@ncgopattorneys.com, PO Box 1962 Raleigh, NC 27602, or by phone at 919-719-9190.