Foes of Land Takings Widen Aim

September 26, 2006 | By PACIFIC LEGAL FOUNDATION

by Timothy Sandefur

Laura Oppenheimer of The Oregonian files this story about Measure 39, an Oregon ballot initiative which would prohibit the abuse of eminent domain. Oppenheimer notes that

planners' biggest beef with Measure 39 isn't the economic development aspect. It's an obscure provision: Governments would pay landowners' court costs in all condemnation cases if the final purchase price beats the first offer.

The state's official financial estimate predicts an extra $8 million to $17 million a year acquiring state highway rights of way, as well as $8 million to $13 million in city and county property costs. The reasoning: More landowners would go to court, and taxpayers would pick up the tab.

Under current law, of course, property owners don't get their attorneys fees, which means that if the government awards, say, $50,000 in just compensation, the owner must then pay the five or ten thousand dollar attorney's fees out of that amount, which means that the owner is left with less than just compensation. Measure 39 (sponsored by our good friends at Oregonians in Action) would correct this unfairness.