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Eminent Domain and Condemnation in Texas

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The Importance of the 5th Amendment

The United States Constitution, under the Fifth Amendment, as well as the Texas Constitution, under Article 1, Section 17, grants governmental entities the power to expropriate private property for public purposes. This mechanism, known as eminent domain, is underpinned by the principle that the owner should receive fair compensation. Given the importance of land and private property in Texas, understanding these legal constructs is crucial. This is where Dan Gattis, as both a land owner and eminent domain attorney, stands out. 

Understanding Eminent Domain

At its core, eminent domain is the power of the governmental entity to take private property for public use. While the idea might sound straightforward, its execution and the nuances surrounding it can lead to complexities.  

The basis of this power can be traced back to the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 17 of the Texas Constitution, which basically states that no private property shall be taken for public use without just compensation. 

However, defining what constitutes “public use” and determining “just compensation” is where many of the debates and legal battles emerge.  

For instance, while building a public school or a highway might be a clear-cut case of public purpose, the waters become murkier when it comes to redevelopment projects or economic revivals that primarily benefit private entities. 

Additionally, it’s essential to understand the difference between eminent domain and condemnation.  

land being developed in Texas

While eminent domain refers to a governmental or private entity’s actual power or right to take the property, condemnation is the legal process by which that property is taken and compensation is provided to the property owner. 

The valuation of the property plays a crucial role in this process.  

The condemning authority, whether a local government or another entity, will often present their valuation. Still, it’s important for property owners to remember that they have rights.  

This includes seeking their own appraisal or contesting the condemnation if they believe the taking does not serve a genuine public purpose or feel the offered compensation isn’t fair or adequate. 

Having an experienced eminent domain attorney by your side is invaluable in these instances. With his profound understanding of real estate law and the eminent domain process, Dan Gattis ensures that landowner rights are front and center, guiding property owners through the legal complexities. 

land in Texas used for power lines

A Closer Look at The Condemnation Procedure

Condemnation, as mentioned, is the legal procedure stemming from the power of eminent domain. However, what does this process entail for property owners and governmental entities? Let’s break it down step by step. 

  • Notification: Before any action is taken, the condemning authority – a local government, public utility, or another governmental agency – must provide the property owner with a formal notice.  
  • This notice often includes the purpose of the taking and the public use it intends to serve. 
  • Appraisal and Offer: The next step involves the condemning authority obtaining an appraisal of the property to determine its fair market value.  
  •  Once this value is established, an initial offer of compensation is made to the property owner. 
  • Negotiations: Property owners have the right to negotiate the initial offer as well as the terms of the offer or in the case of an easement, the terms of the easement. They can seek out their own appraisal to contest the value determined by the condemning authority. In this phase, a deep understanding of real estate law and condemnation law proves pivotal. Organizations like Gattis Law can offer invaluable insights and support during these negotiations, ensuring the landowner’s rights are protected. 
  • Legal Proceedings: If negotiations don’t yield a mutually agreeable outcome, the condemning authority may initiate condemnation proceedings in court.  
  • This is where the case may be evaluated on the merits of the public purpose and the adequacy of the compensation offered. 

The Legal proceedings in condemnation cases can be somewhat confusing as there is actually two different phases to the court process.  The first being through a commissioner’s hearing and then through the actual court process, like any other court case, if either party appeals the commissioners’ award.  Understanding this process is crucial for landowners as there are multiple legal hurdles you must overcome to make sure you have the right to appeal your case and obtain just compensation for the taking of your property. 

  • Appeals: If either party disagrees with the court’s final decision after an ultimate trial on the matter, they may appeal to a higher court, such as the Supreme Court. However, appeals can be lengthy and require a firm grounding in eminent domain law and the specifics of the condemnation case at hand. 

Property owners must understand that while the condemnation procedure might seem daunting, they have rights and recourse. The attorney-client relationship is crucial in these situations. 

A land-owning eminent domain attorney, like Dan Gattis, can navigate the intricacies of the condemnation process, advocating for the property owner’s interests every step of the way. 

Challenges and Disputes in Eminent Domain

While rooted in the United States and Texas Constitutions and supported by jurisprudence, eminent domain remains a controversial issue in real estate law and property rights.  

The power vested in the government to seize private lands for public use is not without its share of disputes and challenges. Here’s what property owners and landowners should be aware of: 

  • Definition of Public Use: Central to many eminent domain disputes is the definition of public use. Over time, the interpretation has evolved. Initially, public use pertained to things like roads or public schools.  
  • Today, this term can extend to projects that promise economic development, like shopping centers or sports stadiums. This broadening interpretation has led many private property owners to contest the legality of the expropriation. 
  • Fair Compensation Disputes: Determining what constitutes fair compensation is often a point of conflict. While the Fifth Amendment guarantees just compensation, property valuation is subjective and can vary significantly between the appraisals of the condemning authority and the property owner.  
fence marking off private land in Texas
  • Impact on Remaining Property: Sometimes, only a portion of a property is taken for public use, leaving the remaining property potentially devalued. Determining the impact on the property’s value, especially when its utility or appeal might be affected, can be a complex challenge. 
  • Rights of Landowners: Not all landowners know their full spectrum of rights when faced with eminent domain. From contesting the take of the property to ensuring just compensation, landowner rights are multifaceted and require a keen understanding of eminent domain law. 
  • Legal Precedents: The Supreme Court and other courts have set numerous examples that affect the eminent domain process. Keeping abreast of these decisions and understanding their implications is crucial, especially when charting the legal strategies for a condemnation case. 
  • The Role of Eminent Domain Attorneys: Engaging an experienced eminent domain attorney is vital. These professionals, like the team at Gattis Law, understand the nuances of condemnation law, the intricacies of eminent domain proceedings, and the strategies to employ to protect the rights and interests of property owners. 
Dan Gattis - Trial Lawyer Texas

The Importance of Qualified Representation

Not all legal representation in eminent domain is created equal. The multifaceted nature of this area demands attorneys with specific experience and commitment. Dan Gattis exemplifies these qualities: 

Proven Success: Dan’s track record speaks volumes. He consistently ensures his clients’ rights are respected and they receive appropriate compensation. 

Acknowledgments: Our team’s expertise has earned accolades and respect in the legal domain. 

In-depth Knowledge: Dan provides unmatched insights into the eminent domain and condemnation processes. 

Client Focus: At Gattis Law, we value our clients, and understand the emotional and financial stakes involved. 

Local and National Insight: Dan maintains awareness of both local and national trends in eminent domain, positioning us to handle cases of varying magnitudes. 

Specialization: Unlike generalist firms, Dan’s focus on eminent domain ensures clients receive specialized attention. 

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Recently Announced
Eminent Domain Projects

Project: Blanco Loop 

Location: Blanco County

Project: Blackfin Pipeline Project 

Location: Colorado County to Jasper County, Texas

Project: Bahia Pipeline Project 

Location: Reeves County in West Texas to Chambers County, east of Houston

Landowner Resources

Discover the key elements of eminent domain and condemnation in Texas: government authority, just compensation, and public use requirements. Understand your rights with this free legal guide.


If your property is at risk of being seized, understanding the power behind eminent domain and the process of condemnation is crucial. Find answers to frequently asked questions here.

Critical Rights
of Property Owners

As a property owner, you have 10 critical rights

  1. You have the right to fair compensation for land that is taken for public use
  2. Land can only be taken for public projects
  3. Only an entity with the power of eminent domain may take your land
  4.  You must be properly notified about the condemnation
  5. You must be provided with a written appraisal from a certified appraiser
  6. A bona fide purchase offer must be made before a condemnation petition is filed
  7. You may enlist your own appraiser to assess the value of the land
  8. You may enlist a lawyer to represent you
  9. You are entitled to a special commissioners’ hearing
  10. You are entitled to trial by judge or jury if you are unhappy with the award.

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As a rancher and landowner himself, Dan Gattis understands firsthand the priorities and problems of private-property owners and shares the deep ties, emotions, and values of families that have lived and worked the land — many for generations.