Keith M. Babcock
Eminent domain law is one of Keith Babcock’s primary areas of practice with the vast majority of his condemnation clients being South Carolina landowners. Before entering private practice in 1981, Keith served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of South Carolina where he first began litigating condemnation cases, representing the South Carolina Department of Transportation in various counties throughout the State.
Keith’s firm represented landowner, David Lucas, in a successful regulatory takings claim against the South Carolina Coastal Commission. In Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003, 112 S.Ct. 2886 (1992), the U.S. Supreme Court held that government regulations denying a property owner all “economically viable use” of the land constitute a taking of private property for which just compensation must be paid.
Significant Eminent Domain Representations and Reported Decisions
- Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003, 112 S.Ct. 2886 (1992)
- In one of the most significant property rights decisions in the last twenty-five years, Mr. Babcock’s firm represented David Lucas, who challenged an action by the South Carolina Coastal Council as a taking of his property. This case was successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court by Mr. Babcock’s partner, A. Camden Lewis. This case resulted in Mr. Lucas receiving compensation from the State of South Carolina because the enforcement of the South Carolina Beach Front Management Act resulted in Mr. Lucas being barred from erecting any permanent habitable structure on his land, which the Supreme Court held deprived him of all economically viable use of his property.
- Manning v. City of Columbia, 297 S.C. 451, 377 S.E.2d 335 (1989)
- In this case, Mr. Babcock and his partner, A. Camden Lewis, represented a landowner, Burwell D. Manning, Jr., in an action against the City of Columbia for the flooding of his property. Mr. Manning had conveyed property to the City of Columbia on the Congaree River by deed that included a covenant requiring the City to maintain levies at the same height at the time of the conveyance. Mr. Manning retained the adjacent land to the levies, and suit was brought against the City of Columbia for inverse condemnation and breach of contract after the City’s portion of the levy broke in two places, allowing the river to flood Mr. Manning’s property. The City of Columbia denied not only its liability, but also damages. A jury disagreed, returning a verdict in the amount of $4,125,000.00, which verdict was upheld by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
- Central Electric Power Cooperative v. IN RE: Condemnation of a 75 foot right-of-way 760 feet long across lands in Kershaw belonging to Candace McKey, Unpublished Opinion No. UP-670 (S.C. Ct. App. 2003)
- Not all cases go to the United States Supreme Court or involve verdicts of more than seven figures, but all condemnation cases are important when a landowner’s property has been taken by a governmental entity. In this case, Mr. Babcock represented a landowner whose undeveloped tract of land was being impacted by the installation of an electric transmission line. At trial, the condemning authority’s appraiser testified to just compensation in the amount of $4,800.00, whereas the Landowner’s appraiser testified to just compensation in the amount of $54,500.00. The jury ultimately returned a verdict of $48,500.00. By statute, as a result of the jury’s verdict being so close to the Landowner’s appraiser’s testimony, the Landowner was also awarded his costs, expert expenses, and attorneys fees.
- Layman v. State, 368 S.C. 631, 630 S.E.2d 265 (2006)
- Some cases involve takings in unique settings. In this case, Mr. Babcock and his firm, along with another South Carolina attorney, brought suit against the State of South Carolina and the South Carolina Retirement System for a statutory change to a special state retirement program. The South Carolina Supreme Court, which decided this matter in its original jurisdiction, did not reach the takings issue, which had been raised, but decided the case on a breach of contract theory, awarding an immediate refund to this group of retirees in the amount of $37 million dollars and prohibited the state from taking an additional $72 million dollars in the future.
- SCDOT v. Barefoot Resort Golf Club, LLC, et al., Civil Action No. 01-CP-26-1503
- This condemnation action involved an acquisition by the South Carolina Department of Transportation for a new roadway in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Mr. Babcock and his partner, A. Camden Lewis, represented the landowner, which had settled the amount the landowner was to receive for the land actually taken prior to Mr. Babcock’s firm being engaged in the case. In July of 2006, a jury returned a verdict in the amount of $2,750,000.00 for damages to the golf course.
- SCDOT v. Kellogg Corporation, Civil Action No. 07-CP-02-492
- In this condemnation action, SCDOT acquired slightly more than 62 acres for the construction of the Palmetto Parkway. The DOT presented expert testimony at trial that the Landowner was entitled to less than $500,000.00 for the land acquired and the damage to the remainder. Mr. Babcock and his associate, Brady Thomas, represented the Landowner, and they presented expert testimony that the Landowner was entitled to approximately $1,000,000.00. In a jury trial in April 2008, a jury returned a verdict in the amount of $1,336,518.00, which the DOT did not appeal.
Bar Admissions and Memberships
- South Carolina, 1977
- U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina, 1977
- U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, 1977
- United States Court of Federal Claims, 1979
- U.S. Supreme Court, 1980
- U.S. Tax Court, 1981
- American Bar Association
- Federal Bar Association, South Carolina Chapter
- South Carolina Bar Association
- Richland County Bar Association
Listed below are Keith’s most recent speaking engagements. To view additional presentations and continuing legal instruction, please click here.
- American Law Institute, Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation, “Valuation of Temporary Construction Easements,” February 2015, San Francisco, CA.
- American Law Institute, Condemnation 101, “Name That Tune: Common Trial Themes used by Condemnors and Condemnees,” February 2015, San Francisco, CA.
- American Law Institute, Condemnation 101: How to Prepare and Present an Eminent Domain Case, “The Income Approach to Value: What Makes it Tick,” January 2014, New Orleans, LA.
- University of South Carolina Law School, Commercial Real Estate Transactions, Guest Lecturer, “Eminent Domain Overview,” March 2013, March 2012 and March 2011, Columbia, SC.
- American Law Institute-American Bar Association, Condemnation 101: Winning the High Ground with Fundamentals of Eminent Domain Valuation and Trial Practice, “What a Lawyer Should Look for When Reviewing an Appraisal in Eminent Domain,” January 2012, San Diego, CA.
- American Law Institute-American Bar Association, Condemnation 101: Making the Complex Simple in Eminent Domain, “Representing the Condemnee and Winning from the Start: Overview and Suggestions for a Case Plan,” February 2011, Coral Gables, FL.
- American Law Institute-American Bar Association, Condemnation 101: How to Prepare and Present an Eminent Domain Case, January 2009, Miami Beach, FL.
- American Law Institute-American Bar Association, Condemnation 101: Fundamentals of Condemnation Law and Land Valuation, January 2008, San Francisco, CA.
- South Carolina Bar, Real Estate Section, Eminent Domain CLE, “Condemnation Practice,” December 2007, Columbia, SC.
- CLE International, South Carolina Eminent Domain Conference, “Environmental Issues in Condemnation Cases,” September 2006, North Charleston, SC.
- CLE International, South Carolina Eminent Domain Conference, “Public Taking for Private Gain,” February 2005, Charleston, SC.
- American Law Institute-American Bar Association, Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation, “Environmental Issues and Interaction with State Environmental Agencies,” January 2005, Miami, FL.
- Civil Justice Advisory Committee, District of South Carolina, 1991–1993
- South Carolina Board of Law Examiners, 2001–2006
- South Carolina Bar Chairman
- Professional Responsibility Committee, 1985–1986
- Professional Liability Committee, 2013–2015
- South Carolina Association for Justice
- South Carolina Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates
- President Elect, 2015
Charleston Office Location
2113 Middle Street
Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482
Tel: (843) 883-7424 | Fax: (803) 733-3534