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December 16th, 2013 — By — In News & Events

Interview with Gideon Kanner, “A Fierce Advocate for Just Compensation”

The November/December 2013 issue of Right of Way magazine published by the International Right of Way Association features an excellent interview with our colleague, mentor, and friend, Gideon Kanner.  True to Gideon’s “tell it like it is” style, “A Fierce Advocate for Just Compensation” is an honest and witty one-on-one with this powerhouse of eminent domain and property rights law.

The interview shares many of Kanner’s insights relating to eminent domain and takings law as well as his stories of practicing in this “dark corner of the law” and how he came to be an eminent domain lawyer.  Interviewer Barbara Billitzer asks engaging questions and, as expected, Kanner provides dynamic, fun and insightful answers.  As our colleague Robert Thomas recently commented in his blog, Gideon’s interview provides a glimpse into why property rights lawyers fight this David & Goliath uphill battle on behalf of property owners in eminent domain and takings litigation.

There are too many really great quotes to reprint here so we will leave you with these few and emphatically suggest that you read the entire interview for yourself.

The law of eminent domain is supposed to take private property for “public use” upon payment of “just compensation.” But in fact, the use need not be public and the compensation is not just, as conceded by the very courts that administer it in the name of “fairness.” So lay people are in need of sound guidance as they navigate this unfamiliar territory. (p. 18)

If you represent a property owner in an eminent domain case, particularly an inverse condemnation one, you must understand that your client is persona non grata or the law’s “poor relation,” as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist once said. The California Supreme Court once stated in an opinion that it was its duty to keep condemnation awards down, which is a hell of a hurdle to overcome when your task is to persuade the Justices that your client was undercompensated by the court below. So in those not-so-good ol’ days of the 1960s, when I walked into court, I had my job cut out for me. Sometimes, the hostility emanating from the bench was palpable. As Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit once noted, what property owners in this field often get from the bench is “thinly-disguised contempt.” This is not a line of work for the faint of heart. (p. 19)

My proudest achievement was that I single-handedly effected significant changes in the sometimes barbaric law of eminent domain, which is a tribute, not to me but to the American legal system’s capacity to improve itself. To borrow Lewis Orgel’s expression, you could say that all I did was to light a candle in the “dark corner of the law. (p. 20)

[Disclaimer: Gideon Kanner is an Honorary Member of Owners’ Counsel of America.]