September 29, 2006

Gov. Schwarzenegger Signs Mealy-Mouthed Property Rights Protection (Part 3 of 5)

By Gov. Schwarzenegger Signs Mealy-Mouthed Property Rights Protection (Part 3 of 5)

by Timothy Sandefur

SB 1210 (by Senator Tom Torlakson of Antioch) requires the government to pay a person's attorney's fees in cases where the court finds that the government failed to offer a property owner a "reasonable" amount of money for his or her land. This seldom happens, because the definition of "reasonable" is quite broad, and so this law is unlikely to make much of a difference. SB 1201 would also require the government to pay for the appraisal of a piece of property. Some of the other protections provided by this new law only affect residential property, and would not protect small businesses, which are the most common targets of eminent domain abuse.

Most importantly, SB 1210 does not alter the oppressive terms of California Code of Civil Procedure section 1255.260. Under this law, the government is allowed to do something called a “quick take,” which means that the state can seize your land and deposit what it decides is a “probable” amount of just compensation into a bank account controlled by the court, and if you touch that money, you waive your right to challenge the government’s decision to take your property. These harsh terms prevent a lot of property owners from a realistic chance at a fair day in court. Unfortunately, SB 1210 leaves this unaltered.

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