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May 3rd, 2016 — By — In News & Events

California Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument Today in Important Eminent Domain Case

Beginning at 9:00 AM (Pacfic) today, the California Supreme Court will live-stream oral arguments in an important eminent domain and property rights case, Property Reserve, Inc. v. Superior Court, case number S217738.  This is the case in which the Third District Court of Appeal held that a request made by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to enter private property to undertake geological and environmental activities such as boring holes and installing permanent structures were not the “innocuous” or “superficial” activities permitted under California’s “entry statute.”  (See our previous post here.)

The Court of Appeal found that the level of intrusion on private property requested by DWR would be a taking, and that in order to undertake those activities, the DWR must follow eminent domain procedures.  OCA together with the the National Federation of IndependentBusiness (NFIB) Small Business Legal Center filed an amici curiae brief in support of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta property and business owners who objected to the DWR’s proposed testing and pre-condemnation activities. (The OCA-NFIB brief is linked below.) 

OCA agrees with the conclusion made by the appellate court – that the government’s eminent domain power must be used “in strict conformity to the constitutional protections and procedures that limit its operation.”  The amici brief filed by NFIB and OCA argues two points:

  1. That any significant physical invasion of private property is a taking requiring the payment of just compensation and compliance with eminent domain procedures; and
  2. That adherence to established eminent domain procedures would not interfere with the State’s ability to function or to complete this and other projects.  At worst complying with eminent domain procedures might be inconvenient for the government, but would not make this or other projects impossible.

More about the case via OCA Hawaii Member Robert Thomas’s blog here and here.  Robert Thomas co-authored the OCA-NFIB amici brief in this case.

OCA will be watching the outcome of this case as the Court’s decision here may have nationwide impacts.