South Dakota's Eminent Domain Experiment to Curb Private Condemnation by Railroads
October 1, 2002Donald J. Kochan
The government’s eminent domain power is an extreme one, grounded in the nature of sovereignty but constrained in our Constitution to protect individuals from excessive and unnecessary takings of private property. Justifying eminent domain power becomes more difficult the farther it strays from the control of the sovereign, such as when it is delegated from the government to private entities such as railroads or natural gas operators. In such instances of delegation, the government allows one private entity to formally condemn the property of another private entity. The potential for abuse in such delegations is great, and designing rules to limit such delegated powers should be a priority.