The Virginian-Pilot, in part 1 of a 2-part editorial, lays bare the issues surrounding the use of eminent domain in Virginia.
When the state takes somebody’s property, Virginia’s Constitution entitles them to “just compensation.” But Meeks discovered that her rights to that just compensation were protected more in name than in fact.
So, where did those rights go? They were hollowed out by years of concessions from the General Assembly to local governments, state agencies, utility companies and redevelopment authorities, and by the acquiescence of Virginia’s judiciary.
The playing field is so tilted against Meeks that if the financial pressures force her to surrender and take the $200,000, she loses the right to challenge the constitutionality of the taking.
In other words, the law pressures her in several ways to settle for less money than her property is worth because it will be so expensive to defend her rights.
After the Kelo decision, many legislators hastened to beef up Virginian’s eminent domain laws so that such a taking could not happen here. As the Pilot demonstrates, though, it is not the takings for private gain that are the problem in Virginia; rather, the government has fixed things that make it virtually impossible for someone without deep pockets to fight to be justly compensated.
I don’t presume to be an expert on eminent domain, however, it appears that our system of taking property is flat out wrong.