Enforcement of Right to Compensation.

The nature and char-acter of the tribunal to determine compensation is in the discretion of the legislature, and may be a regular court, a special legislative court, a commission, or an administrative body.677 Proceedings to condemn land for the benefit of the United States are brought in the federal district court for the district in which the land is located.678 The estimate of just compensation is not required to be made by a jury but may be made by a judge or entrusted to a commission or other body.679 Federal courts may appoint a commission in condemnation actions to resolve the compensation issue.680 If a body other than a court is designated to determine just compensation, its decision must be subject to judicial review,681 although the scope of review may be limited by the legislature.682 When the judgment of a state court with regard to the amount of compensation is questioned, the Court’s review is restricted. “All that is essential is that in some appropriate way, before some properly constituted tribunal, inquiry shall be made as to the amount of compensation, and when this has been provided there is that due process of law which is required by the Federal Constitution.”683 “[T]here must be something more than an ordinary honest mistake of law in the proceedings for compensation before a party can make out that the State has deprived him of his property unconstitutionally.”684 Unless, by its rulings of law, the state court prevented a complainant from obtaining substantially any compensation, its findings as to the amount of damages will not be overturned on appeal, even though as a consequence of error therein the property owner received less than he was entitled to.685

Footnotes

677
United States v. Jones, 109 U.S. 513 (1883); Bragg v. Weaver, 251 U.S. 57 (1919). back
678
28 U.S.C. § 1403. On the other hand, inverse condemnation actions (claims that the United States has taken property without compensation) are governed by the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491(a)(1), which vests the Court of Federal Claims (formerly the Claims Court) with jurisdiction over claims against the United States “founded . . . upon the Constitution.” See Eastern Enterprises v. Apfel, 524 U.S. 498, 520 (1998). Inverse condemnation claims against the United States not in excess of $10,000 may also be heard in federal district court under the “Little Tucker Act.” 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2). back
679
Bauman v. Ross, 167 U.S. 548 (1897). Even when a jury is provided to determine the amount of compensation, it is the rule at least in federal court that the trial judge is to instruct the jury with regard to the criteria and this includes determination of “all issues” other than the precise issue of the amount of compensation, so that the judge decides those matters relating to what is computed in making the calculation. United States v. Reynolds, 397 U.S. 14 (1970). back
680
Rule 71A(h), Fed. R. Civ. P. These commissions have the same powers as a court-appointed master. back
681
Monongahela Navigation Co. v. United States, 148 U.S. 312, 327 (1893). back
682
Long Island Water Supply Co. v. Brooklyn, 166 U.S. 685 (1897). In federal courts, reports of Rule 71A commissions are to be accepted by the court unless “clearly erroneous.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 53(e)(2). back
683
Backus v. Fort Street Union Depot Co., 169 U.S. 557, 569 (1898). back
684
McGovern v. City of New York, 229 U.S. 363, 370–71 (1913). back
685
229 U.S. at 371. See also Provo Bench Canal Co. v. Tanner, 239 U.S. 323 (1915); Appleby v. City of Buffalo, 221 U.S. 524 (1911). back