Committed And Experienced Eminent Domain Representation
Anyone facing eminent domain likely has a lot of questions about the process and what they can do to protect themselves. Fortunately, an experienced attorney can help you secure the best possible outcome where the government seeks to take your property. As in any business, success is often the difference between acting and reacting. An owner’s opportunity to succeed in an eminent domain proceeding is greatly increased by the early involvement of our attorneys at Foran, O'Toole & Burke LLC.
The Basics Of Eminent Domain
Eminent domain is the power of the government to take private property. The United States and Illinois constitutions require that “just compensation” be paid to the owner for the taking of his or her property. There are also statutory requirements that limit or prescribe how the government may take private property. It is a power exercised by federal, state and local government agencies to create or expand forest preserves, roads, interstate expressways, stadiums, redevelopment projects, schools, police stations, airports, and more.
What To Know About Precondemnation
Most individuals (attorneys and laypeople alike) believe that the eminent domain process begins only when the government files suit to take a parcel of property. However, the pre-filing period is a critical stage in the taking process. Close teamwork between the property owner and attorneys is crucial to best prepare for, and in some cases to defeat, the government’s taking. We work with property owners prior to the filing of a complaint to accomplish several goals, including:
- Maximize the property’s value
- Change the taking – reduce the amount being taken, reduce damages to the remainder, provide alternative access, provide for a property exchange, and more.
- Prevent the taking altogether
- Negotiate with the government to settle the case before a lawsuit is filed
- Assemble and prepare team of expert witnesses
Filing A Suit Over Compensation
If settlement is not possible and the owner rejects the government’s offer, then the governmental agency will file a Complaint to Condemn, seeking a determination by a jury as to the amount of compensation it must pay to the owner.
How You Can Fight Back
Property owners wishing to prevent the government from taking their property turn to us, as our attorneys are experienced in seeking dismissals of eminent domain suits. Among the arguments we have experience presenting are:
- Challenging the right of government to take the property
- Challenging how the right is being exercised
- Challenging the “Public Purpose” requirement of the taking
- Challenging statutory prerequisites to the government’s taking (offer, studies, planning process, public hearing requirements, and more.)
- Challenging the validity and propriety of the tax increment financing (TIF) basis for the taking
A successful challenge results in the court ruling that the governmental agency does not have the right to take the owner’s property, and the case is dismissed.
Some agencies, such as the Illinois Department of Transportation, have what is called “quick-take” power. This initiates a process by which the judge determines preliminary compensation at a hearing, normally within a month or two of the filing of the Complaint to Condemn. After depositing the preliminary award, the governmental agency receives title to the owner’s property. Many consider this hearing and the preliminary award unimportant because a jury must still determine the final amount of compensation. We have a different philosophy and approach. Our attorneys vigorously prepare for these hearings and introduce evidence as they would at trial. Because this hearing can occur within weeks of the filing of the eminent domain case, it is important for the property owner to seek legal representation as early as possible.
Absent a settlement, a jury trial occurs at the end of the discovery process. Because of our extensive experience, we recognize early in the process which expert witnesses will be needed to best present the owner’s case: appraisers, land planners, civil engineers, environmental engineers, traffic experts, brokers, builders, and developers. We work with the very best expert witnesses to develop theories and opinions of valuation, highest and best use, probability of rezoning, special use and other themes that will maximize the property’s value. Exhibits, such as aerials, development plans, photographs and charts, are expertly designed to persuasively and clearly present our theory of the case to the jury. Great attention is given to the drafting and arguing of pre-trial motions that will narrow or increase the scope of evidence to be presented to the jury. Our attorneys are experienced trial lawyers who have obtained positive results in every eminent domain case that they have brought to jury verdict.
Post Trial Representation
Our attorneys are experienced in apportionment proceedings, appellate advocacy and replacement property acquisitions. The taking of an owner’s property has tax consequences, which is another matter we offer counsel on.
Our Corporate Services
Because so many corporations have chosen Foran, O'Toole & Burke LLC to represent them in eminent domain proceedings, we have evolved into a one-source solution to a business’s eminent domain-related needs. Our attorneys:
- Successfully obtain relocation funds for their clients
- Coordinate the investigation of replacement properties and facilities
- Negotiate post-condemnation possession agreements for their clients
Knowing how disruptive and threatening a taking can be for a business, at Foran, O'Toole & Burke LLC, we pride ourselves on being able to offer businesses all the services and expertise necessary for a successful and profitable transition through the eminent domain process.
Rely On Our Services
When it comes to finding an attorney that can help you with your eminent domain needs, choose an attorney you can trust over the years. See for yourself how we have helped thousands of clients earn positive results in their legal needs. Schedule your free initial consultation today.