South-Western Legal Studies in Business

State May Not Use Eminent Domain Power for Private Benefit
Description

Oklahoma supreme court held that it is a violation of the state constitution for governments in Oklahoma to use their power of eminent domain to take private property that will be used for private purposes. Claims of benefits from economic development are not sufficient justification.

Topic

Constitutional Law

Key Words

Eminent Domain; Taking; Private Use

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Muskogee County brought condemnation proceedings against landowners to acquire right-of-way easements to install three water pipelines, two of which would be for the exclusive use of a private electric generation plant. Landowners sued, contending that the taking was unconstitutional, as it was taking private property for private use in violation of the Oklahoma constitution, which allows taking for public use. The wording in the Oklahoma constitution is similar to that in the U.S. Constitution. The state district court approved the taking; the appeals court reversed. The county appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. These takings were impermissible takings of landowners' private property to confer a private benefit on a private party. That violates the state constitution. Economic development alone was not a public use or public purpose to justify the exercise of eminent domain; that is not a public purpose. The landowners are entitled to attorney fees and costs.

Citation

Board of County Commissioners of Muskogee County v. Lowery, ---P.3d--- (2006 WL 1233934, Sup. Ct. , Okla. , 2006)

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