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Although the right of governments to acquire private property for public purposes has existed as long as governments have existed, and eminent domain jurisprudence is centuries old, the landscape is changing. Following the US Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, 545 US 469 (2005), state legislatures across the country adopted statutes that limit the exercise of the power of an eminent domain. In Texas, the basic rule – a city can take private property when deemed necessary for public use – is limited by section 17 of Article I of the Texas Constitution and chapter 2206 of the Government Code to prohibit condemnation when the public purpose is economic development. Historically, Texas Supreme Court rulings have been paternalistic towards municipalities, notwithstanding the imposition of ever more strict statutory requirements. But this trend is changing. A stronger focus on individual rights and property rights is emerging.
Condemnation and the taking of private property for public use requires strict compliance with a series of statutory requirements. As is sometimes the case, statutes can impose traps for the unwary as a means of discouraging municipal action. The process is replete with multiple and specific notices and deadlines, and proper legal guidance is essential to the successful exercise of this fundamental governmental authority.
Condemnation involves litigation in most cases, which is a basic right allowed by law to property owners. Through more than a half-century of hands-on experience, Nichols Jackson has proven its ability to navigate through the statutory process and to succeed in litigation. The firm’s older cases date back as far as the 1950s, the most recent is KMS Retail v. City of Rowlett, 593 S.W.3d 175 (Tex. 2019), in the Texas Supreme Court.