Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Straight Condemnation Definition:

A formal process for the exercise of eminent domain in which a price is adjudicated and then the property bought by the government.

Related Terms: Quick Take, Eminent Domain

In East Tennessee Natural Gas v Sage, Justice Michael of the United States Court of Appeals wrote extensively on straight condemnation:

"We begin our discussion by reviewing the mechanics of how the federal power of eminent domain is usually exercised. Congressional authorization is required for land to be condemned by the government for public use. Congress sometimes exercises the power of eminent domain directly by enacting a statute that appropriates specific property. Congress's normal practice, however, is to delegate the power of eminent domain to government officers who may condemn property in the name of the United States for public use. And Congress may grant condemnation power to private corporations executing works in which the public is interested.

"Although the federal statutes conferring the power of eminent domain routinely identify the officer who may exercise the power and the purpose for which it may be exercised, the statutes typically do not prescribe the procedural methods or steps for exercising the power. (The) Secretary of a military department may acquire by condemnation any interest in land needed for the site, construction, or operation of fortifications, coast defenses, or military training camps. The Secretary of the Interior is authorized in his discretion to acquire for inclusion within the Mammoth Cave National Park by condemnation any lands within the maximum boundaries....

"When a condemnation action becomes necessary, a government official has two statutory methods available for exercising the power of eminent domain. Under the first method, called straight condemnation, the action usually proceeds to a determination of just compensation and final judgment before the condemnor takes possession. Under the second method, often referred to as quick-take, the government may take possession of the condemned property at the beginning of the case.

"In straight condemnation the government official requests the Attorney General to initiate the condemnation action in district court.... (The) complaint must set forth the authority for the taking, the use for which the property is being taken, the identity of the property, and the interest to be acquired. After the complaint is filed, the action proceeds in due course to the determination of just compensation for the owner of the land....

"Under traditional procedures ... the condemning authority takes possession of the property after the determination and payment of just compensation.... (W)hen just compensation is determined first, the practical effect is to give the government an option to buy the property at the adjudicated price. If the government wishes to exercise that option, it tenders payment to the private owner, whereupon title and right to possession vest in the United States. On the other hand, if the government decides not to exercise its option, it can move for dismissal of the condemnation action."

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