Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Eminent Domain Definition:

USA: The legal power to expropriate private land for the sake of public necessity.

Related Terms: Expropriation, Quick Take, Straight Condemnation

In Dallas v VSC, Justice Fitzgerald of the Court of Appeals of Texas opined that eminent domain was one of two sovereign powers inherent to a state (the other being police power), adding, at footnote #4:

"Eminent domain is the right or power of a sovereign state to appropriate private property for the promotion of the general welfare."

In Baltimore v Valsamaki, Justice Catchell of the Court of Appeals of Maryland wrote:

"Eminent domain is defined as the inherent power of a governmental entity to take privately owned property, esp. land, and convert it to public use, subject to reasonable compensation for the taking. The power of eminent domain adheres to sovereignty and requires no constitutional authority for its existence.

"The power of eminent domain, however, is limited by both the Constitution of Maryland and the United States Constitution. The right to private property, and the protection of that right, is a bedrock principle of our constitutional republic....

"[I]t is evident that government, through its federal and various state legislatures, does not have the authority to take a private individual's property and convey it to another private individual for a purely private purpose. It has long been accepted that the sovereign may not take the property of A for the sole purpose of transferring it to another private party B, even though A is paid just compensation.... [O]ne person's property may not be taken for the benefit of another private person without a justifying public purpose, even though compensation be paid. A purely private taking could not withstand the scrutiny of the public use requirement; it would serve no legitimate purpose of government and would thus be void."

In Villarreal v Harris County, Justice Jane Bland of the Court of Appeals of Texas related the term condemnation:

"Eminent domain refers to the power to take private property for public use by the state, municipalities, and private persons or corporations authorized to exercise functions of state power....

"A municipality exercises its power of eminent domain through the process referred to as condemnation. Condemnation is the procedure by which the sovereign exercises its right to take property of a private owner for public use, without consent, upon the payment of just compensation. Inverse condemnation occurs when (1) a property owner seeks (2) compensation for (3) property taken for public use (4) without process or a proper condemnation proceeding."

Also see expropriate.


  • Baltimore v Valsamaki, 916 A. 2d 324 (2007)
  • City of Dallas v. VSC, 242 SW 3d 584 (2008)
  • Villarreal v. Harris County, 226 SW 3d 537 (2006)

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