Taking the Fight for Fair Compensation to the California Supreme Court

As part of the NFIB Legal Center’s Just Compensation Project, we are stepping up our efforts to defend the right of small business owners to receive full and fair compensation for eminent domain takings. This is a nationwide effort. In March we filed in an eminent domain case out of Westerville, Ohio. Now our fight for full and fair compensation takes us to the California Supreme Court in Stamper v. City of Perris.

Here the government is raising a down-right Orwellian argument in justification for a low-ball compensation award. The City of Perris initiated eminent domain proceedings to take a strip of land across a commercial property, but it is insisting that it should only be required to value the land in question as if it were used for agricultural purposes. That would be one thing if that was the only potential use for the property; however, in this case the owners could have sought to develop the property—which means the property should be valued substantially higher.

But this is where the curve-ball comes. The City argues that it would never approve a development permit for the property unless the owner agreed to dedicate the very land it is trying to take here. In other words, the City thinks that it should be able to get around the requirement to value the property in light of its most profitable potential uses by insisting that it would simply require the owners to give the government the property as a condition of getting a permit approval. Of course with that rationale government could systematically undercompensate landowners in eminent domain cases. Accordingly, we joined with Pacific Legal Foundation in an amicus brief urging the Court to reject the City’s Orwellian arguments. We believe this is important because other cities throughout the country will be taking note of what happens in the California Supreme Court here.

Be sure to follow the NFIB Blog and the NFIB Legal Center Facebook page for further updates.

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About Luke Wake

Luke A. Wake is a senior staff attorney at the NFIB Small Business Legal Center. Wake has particular expertise on environmental and land use issues, and has worked on numerous other constitutional issues and matters of importance to small business owners. He is an ardent defender of private property rights, which he believes are essential to the free enterprise system and the foundation of American liberty. As a strong advocate of individual rights and economic liberties, he has built his career defending small business interests. Since joining the NFIB Legal Center, Wake has focused on a whole host of issues, from employment law matters to regulatory compliance. In addition to serving as a resource for small business owners, Wake remains committed to the Legal Center’s pledge to ensure that the voice of small business is heard in the nation’s courts. He is also working to advance small business interests in law review articles, including publications in the Berkeley Journal of Law & Ecology, the Texas Journal of Law and Politics, and Competition Magazine. See R.S. Radford & Luke A. Wake, Deciphering and Extrapolating: Searching for Sense in Penn Central, 38 Ecology L.Q. 731, 746-747 (2011); Damien M. Schiff, Luke A. Wake, Leveling the Playing Field in David v. Goliath: Remedies to Agency Overreach, 17 Tex. L. Rev. & Pol. 97 (2012); Jarod M. Bona and Luke A. Wake, The Market-Participant Exception to State-Action Immunity From Antitrust Liability, J. of Antitrust and Unfair Competition of the State Bar of Ca., Vol. 23, No. 1, 156 (Spring 2014); James S. Burling and Luke A. Wake, Takings and Torts: The Role of Intention and Foreseeability in Assessing Takings Damages, in Condemnation 101: Making the Complex Simple in Eminent Domain 449-51 (ALI-ABA Committee on Continuing Professional Education eds. 2011). Before joining the Legal Center’s team, Wake completed a prestigious two-year fellowship as an attorney in the Pacific Legal Foundation’s (PLF) College of Public Interest Law. Wake is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland Ohio. He is a member of the California Bar, the District of Columbia Bar, and the U.S. Supreme Court Bar. He completed his undergraduate studies at Elon University in North Carolina in 2006 where he focused on political theory and corporate communications.
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