The concept of eminent domain allows the government to seize private property for public use. However, this authority has its limits, some of which are set by the definition of its aspects, such as the term “public use”.
If you are a property owner who wants to ensure your rights in an eminent domain case, it is crucial to understand what “public use” constitutes.
Traditional vs. modern interpretation
Traditionally, “public use” in eminent domain cases means the private property to be seized will be used for a purpose that benefits the general public. Common examples are the construction of public roads, highways, hospitals, schools and other public infrastructure.
The definition of the term has somewhat evolved over time in some jurisdictions. In a ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that “public use” does not only pertain to projects directly benefitting the public, but also those that provide broad economic or social benefits to the public, such as economic redevelopment projects. This means the government can transfer properties to private parties for these purposes.
However, Texas does not follow this ruling and restricts the use of eminent domain to the seizure of property for the ownership, use and enjoyment of the government and entities granted the authority of eminent domain under the law.
Still a case-by-case basis
The use of eminent domain can be a complex concept, especially since it involves both federal and state laws. Furthermore, the concept of public use is still subject to interpretation depending on the special circumstances of each case.
Hence, if you are a property owner dealing with a potential eminent domain issue in Texas, you may want to consult with a legal expert to understand your rights and the specific laws in your jurisdiction.