The NFIB Small Business Legal Center recently joined in urging the Supreme Court to take-up what we think to be an important eminent domain case. We’re especially concerned with ensuring that small business owners receive full and fair compensation when their land is taken through eminent domain. But of course, it’s not uncommon for the government to seek to minimize its liabilities. We often hear about condemning authorities radically undervaluing property in the hope of short-changing small business landowners.
Of course, that’s why it’s important that we continue to speak-up for small business rights in in court. But what if the Court is simply rubber-stamping the government’s valuation? That would certainly present a problem. As the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed since the Nineteenth Century, it’s the proper role of the courts to say what is “just compensation” in an eminent domain cases and to ensure landowners receive the “full and perfect equivalent” of what is taken.
Unfortunately it looks like the Mississippi Supreme Court missed that memo. In Bay Point Properties v. MTC, the State sought to build a public park on private property, but wanted to compensate the owner for less than its fair market value. When the owner appealed to the courts, the Mississippi Supreme Court said that it was bound by statute to value the land as if it were subject to an easement prior to the taking—even though the State had, in actuality, abandoned that easement. Accordingly, we’ve joined in calling upon the U.S. Supreme Court to take this case, to make clear that state government’s may not evade their obligation to pay fair market value. Under no circumstance may a State take property and short-change the owner simply by passing a statute dictating to courts what should be deemed “just compensation.”