Glenn Sodd and the Power of Eminent Domain
On October 25, 2006, Glenn Sodd testified before the 79th Legislature’s Interim Committee to Study Power of Eminent Domain. Read his opening statement, and learn just how harmful condemnation can be for landowner:
My name is Glenn Sodd. I represent landowners in condemnation cases. I love having the chance, and I applaud your interest in the subject of adequate compensation and condemnation cases because it answers, if it’s done right, the problems with pipelines and what they do to property and the restrictions on the way we currently look at adequate compensation.
The first problem is really defined this way: while the constitution says “adequate compensation,” the courts have said what that means is market value on the date of taking. And they are not the same thing. If you’re talking about buying my regular rattletrap car, what it’s worth on the open market might be a fair deal. But if you’re talking about the car that my daddy drove and my granddaddy drove, and it’s a collector’s item to me because of what it means to me, market value of that old used car is not an appropriate amount of money to pay me if I catch you stealing it.
Condemnation is nothing more than theft. If you drive up to my driveway and get in my car and turn the key and drive off with it, you go to jail. If you drive up to my driveway and take my property, you don’t go to jail. The only condition that allows you not to go to jail is that you pay adequate compensation.
Our problem is that what we call “adequate compensation” is often not adequate. That poor lady with eight pipelines going across her three-and-a-half acres only got paid once for each one of those, and for the second, third, fourth, and the fifth, those pipeline companies argued that she was entitled to less damage because she already had a pipeline there. A virgin tract. And that’s why pipeline or power line companies routinely parallel each other, so they can argue: “Well, it’s true that you lose privacy. And it’s true there’s danger associated with gas pipelines. And it’s true that power lines are ugly and dangerous. But you already had one. And you’re already suffering from that danger and that ugliness. So you’re a blemished woman. And you’re not worth as much as an unblemished woman was, effectively speaking.” That’s their argument. And it’s wrong. But it’s exactly what happens to a landowner.
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