When Trying to Protect Your Eminent Domain Rights, You Are On The Clock

Eminent domain litigation includes many time limits. From filing a response to a Complaint in Eminent Domain or opposing a motion for prejudgment possession, to exchanging a statement of valuation data or making a final demand for compensation, the California Eminent Domain Law sets forth the specific number of days in which a property owner must comply.

But even before the eminent domain lawsuit is filed in court, the governing body of the condemning agency must take an important administrative step – adopt a resolution of necessity. This legal prerequisite compels the governmental entity seeking to acquire the property (e.g., State of California, Caltrans, county, city, special district, etc.) to make several findings at a public hearing:

  1. The public interest and necessity require the proposed project,
  2. The proposed project is planned or located in the manner that will be most compatible with the greatest public good and the least private injury,
  3. The property sought to be acquired is necessary for the proposed project, and
  4. A proper offer for the property has been made to the owner

A two-thirds vote of all members of the governing body is required to adopt the resolution of necessity. Only then can the government file an eminent domain lawsuit to acquire the property.

A property owner has the right to appear at the hearing on the resolution of necessity to argue against the taking. But there is a critical limitation on that right to be heard – the clock.

Most public bodies apply strict time limits on members of the public seeking to speak. While elected officials on the governing board and their staff have seemingly unlimited time to present the government’s case and comment on its merits, a property owner may have as little as one minute to speak. Based on published procedures at the time this article was written, time limits placed on public speakers at public hearings include:

  • Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority – 1 minute
  • City of Los Angeles – 1 minute
  • Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors – 3 minutes
  • Orange County Board of Supervisors – 3 minutes
  • San Diego County Board of Supervisors – 3 minutes

So, how should you deal with the limited amount of time provided in order to protect your rights? Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Put it in writing. Submit a letter with your comments to the board prior to or at the hearing and ask that the letter be made part of the record of the hearing.
  2. Practice makes perfect. Write out your presentation, or at least prepare an outline, and practice to make sure it satisfies the time requirement.
  3. Request more time. Depending on the length of the agenda, additional time may be granted if you ask for it.
  4. Get to the point. With only minutes to make your pitch, use your time wisely.

When it comes to protecting your rights at a hearing on a resolution of necessity, time is clearly of the essence.

The attorneys at Sullivan, Workman & Dee are here to help in negotiations, administrative proceedings and litigation involving your eminent domain rights and remedies. Contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced attorney at our firm.