Troubling aspects of condemnation cases....
Commentators and reporters focusing on the Nevada land condemnation case are missing the big picture, one that is independent of a rancher's racist views and the merits of the state's case in this instance.
Condemnation's Big Picture:
First, the pertinent part of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: "No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."
1. Forcible Eviction. People are being thrown out of their homes, a wrenching event in any case, but especially in those where the owner's family has lived on the property for generations. Often the government's reasons for doing so are not necessity (e.g., interstate highway right-of-way) but raw power politics (e.g., Green preservationist mania that protects rats & turtles, etc.), or collusion with big private interests, as was the case in the despicable Kelo v. New London (2005) Supreme Court case that led over 40 states to pass laws negating its impact. It hardly helps that friends of the politically connected may well see their property protected, while less connected owners face eviction.
2. Done Deals. The lower court judges who rule in these cases are often political hacks. They will do the administration's bidding all or nearly all the time. That the Nevada ranchers lost serial court cases does not convince me the rulings were genuinely free of political taint. Perhaps in this case they were, but I would not wager the family farm. Does anyone save partisan Democrats believe that the Harry Reids of the world appoint good judges to rule without favor?
3. Unjust Valuation. Governments have every incentive to underpay--i.e., pay less than fair market value. Few owners have the financial resources to put up a serious fight. No bureaucrat wins plaudits from the boss by being generous with compensation. Those bureaucrats owe their livelihood to the government agency that employs them, which does not encourage dispassionate appraisal.
Bottom Line. The decisions in many condemnation cases surely meet rudimentary requirements of due process, but such represents at most technical compliance with formalities. A look under the surface suggests that underneath the veneer of legal process often are ugly political realities.
There probably is little that can be done to prevent governments from using political purposes to justify taking land, nor can politicized judging be prevented. But steps can be taken to hold governments to a reasonable conception of fair market value.
Governments might offer fair market value for a rapid eviction, versus far less if the property owner litigates. More independent appraisals of property value could facilitate the process.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Economy, Cosnervative Politics