Eminent domain refers to the state and federal government’s ability to seize a private citizen’s property without his or her consent for public use/benefit.
The Federal Government’s eminent domain authority flows from the 5th Amendment’s “Takings Clause,” which provides in pertinent part that “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” At first glance, this constitutional provision does not seem to be a grant of power. Rather, it seems to say ‘the government may seize as much property as it likes so long as it provides fair market value’. In any event, pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Kelo v. New London, the federal government may “take” (which in itself has a nuanced meaning) property so long as it is for public purpose.
The Missouri Constitution promulgates a more detailed provision:
That private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation. Such compensation shall be ascertained by a jury or board of commissioners of not less than three freeholders, in such manner as may be provided by law; and until the same shall be paid to the owner, or into court for the owner, the property shall not be disturbed or the proprietary rights of the owner therein divested. The fee of land taken for railroad purposes without consent of the owner thereof shall remain in such owner subject to the use for which it is taken.
Quite obviously, there are much more stipulations and conditions that need to be met to effectuate a “taking” should the actor be Missouri. Further, under RSMo 523.262, a public utility or private utility company can receive a grant of eminent domain from the State.
Because controversies regarding the proper procedures, manners, and law surrounding eminent domain is complex and will implicate dealing with the State/Federal government, it is important to be fully advised of the law.