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What exactly constitutes “public use” in eminent domain cases? 

On Behalf of | May 22, 2023 | Eminent Domain |

The United States Constitution gives the Government the right to take privately owned property through the power of eminent domain. This doesn’t mean that it has the right to come along and take any property it likes, it must be for “public use” and the owner must be justly compensated. 

The term “public use,” however, is vague and it can be difficult to understand just exactly what this means and what it covers. 

Public use has a wide range of meanings 

Some other terms that are used alongside “public use” are “public benefit,” “public advantage,” and “public purpose”. This suggests, therefore, that the reason why the Government would choose to exercise its rights under the Fifth Amendment “Takings Clause” is because it’s believed that the property and land would serve a greater purpose to the community than its current use. 

This means that for the Government to justify condemning (or taking) the property, it has to be for the benefit of the public as a whole and not just a particular individual or certain group of people. This doesn’t mean that it has to benefit the whole nation, it can be a smaller population so long as there’s a justifiable need. 

Just exactly what purpose the Government has for a property it takes by eminent domain will be dependent on the area it is in. Some examples, however, of what might be considered a valid purpose include building roads, reservoirs, bridges, public transportation infrastructure and nature parks. 

It is possible to stop eminent domain by showing that there is no public use for the property and if the owner has not received just compensation. Having legal representation is essential in fighting for your rights.