Robert H. Thomas

Senior Attorney Sacramento

After more than three decades in private practice in Hawaii and California representing property owners in takings, eminent domain, and land use cases, Robert joined PLF’s team of freedom fighters in 2021 

Many of Robert’s most rewarding cases have been in furtherance of the cause of individual rights and freedoms. As counsel for the property owners in County of Hawaii v. C&J Coupe Family Limited Partnership, Robert helped establish the rule that courts are not mere “rubber stamps” when a local government is taking property by eminent domain. Another case, Hamilton ex rel. Lethem v. Lethem, held that a parent’s liberty interest in raising and disciplining his child included a right to fair procedures, including notice and a judicial hearing before the family court could restrict parent-child contact. In another case requiring fair procedures, Kellberg v. Yuen, Robert represented the property owner who successfully challenged an agency’s deliberate failure to inform citizens when the agency had reached an appealable decision, thus depriving them of judicial review.  

An elected member of the American Law Institute, Robert received his LLM, with honors, from Columbia Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, and his JD from the University of Hawaii School of Law, where he served as editor of the Law Review. He also serves as the inaugural Joseph T. Waldo Visiting Chair in Property Rights Law at William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he teaches upper-division courses in eminent domain, land use, property rights, and property law. In addition, he recently completed a year as the chair of the American Bar Association Section of State & Local Government Law, and was the long-time chair of the section’s Eminent Domain Law Committee. Robert also has served as editor-in-chief of the section’s scholarly legal journal on municipal law issues, The Urban Lawyer. He is also the co-planning chair of the American Law Institute-CLE’s long-standing three-day national conference on property and condemnation law, Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation, now in its 39th year. 

He is a frequent speaker on property rights, takings, land use, and eminent domain issues nationwide. Robert also regularly publishes scholarly and practical articles in his area of practice, including most recently, Hoist the Yellow Flag and Spam® Up: The Separation of Powers Limitation on Hawaii’s Emergency Authority, 43 U. Haw. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2021) and Evaluating Emergency Takings: Flattening the Economic Curve, 29 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. __ (forthcoming 2021).  

When he’s not working, you might find him writing and publishing his blog on land use, property, and takings law, inversecondemnation.com, one of the most widely read blogs on those subjects.  

Cases