Who can exercise the power of eminent domain?
This power can be exercised not only by the federal government and each state, but also by local governments. Quasi-government groups – including power companies and hospital and stadium authorities – also have this power, Garvis Sams, an attorney who handles eminent domain cases with Sams, Larkin, Huff & Balli, pointed out.
How often is eminent domain used?
"Well, I've made my living off of it. I don't do any other kind of law," said Charles Ruffin, an attorney who's a shareholder in Baker Donelson.
Since Georgia is growing, there's a need for more roads, schools, court houses and other types of public projects, he said, and this drives the use of eminent domain.
However, although the use of eminent domain is still fairly common, it's not used as much as it used to be, Sams said. Government entities don't want to seem as though the land is being used for a private purpose, he said.
"They're being a lot more selective and careful," he added.
What kind of projects has eminent domain been used for in Georgia?
It's been used for projects including parking for the Sandy Springs City Center, a bridge over Interstate 285 to SunTrust Park, a road project related to SunTrust Park, the Atlanta Beltline, and two interstate energy pipelines.
Can landowners challenge the taking of their property?
Yes. One recourse is to challenge the taking on the grounds that it's not for a public purpose but instead will benefit a private entity, Ruffin said.
Landowners can also disagree with the compensation that's being offered, arguing that it's not just, he said.
In some cases, however, it's not worth a prolonged fight if what the government is offering is close to what the landowner will accept.
"Sometimes the best advice is to settle," Ruffin said.