Most property and business owners impacted by eminent domain are having their first experience – they have never before experienced the eminent domain process and probably will not experience it again. They may have business and real estate attorneys who are fantastic resources for most of their business and real estate problems, but lack eminent domain experience. How, then, should you choose your eminent domain attorney? We suggest that you focus on the following:
- Actual Trial Experience- Ask your prospective attorneys if they have actually served as the lead trial attorney in an eminent domain jury trial. Some law firms are advertising themselves as “experienced” when their attorneys have never tried an eminent domain jury trial. Some are doing this regarding attorneys who have actually stated that they do not like to try cases at all, jury or otherwise. Callanan, Rogers & Dzida, LLP, will assign a lead attorney to your case with actual jury trial experience in eminent domain cases. In fact, the Real Estate Director for one of the largest school districts in California told us that, out of over 300 eminent domain takings by the district, only three went to trial. Since both Joe Dzida and Rob Rogers of the Callanan firm each successfully tried one jury case against this school district, two out of these three trials were handled successfully by our partners.
- The Willingness To Fight For Your Rights – Some law firms use cappers to sign clients up only to settle the cases quickly in order to collect their fees. While most eminent domain cases do settle, some have to be tried as discussed above. Ask yourselves: Will my negotiating position be strengthened if my legal counsel is known to to try cases when justice calls for that, or will my negotiating position be strengthened if my legal counsel avoids trial and rolls over in order to collect his fee rather than protect my interests?
- The Knowledge And Ability To Innovate And Step Outside Of The Box – New times and new situations sometimes call for new ideas that are beyond past experience. For example, Joe Dzida proposed an innovative idea to relocate one of our firm’s clients when that client was targeted by Caltrans for eminent domain, but Caltrans had not yet finalized its plans. The experienced Caltrans personnel stated that the idea had never been done and could not be done. Mr. Dzida explained the federal regulations that supported the idea. Though previously untried, Caltrans obtained approval from the federal government for the idea, based on the regulations explained by Mr. Dzida. The client successfully relocated. In another example, Joe Dzida and Rob Rogers came up with an innovative “down market” strategy to help a client when the government offered less than the debt encumbering his property because of the declining real estate market. As a result, the trial judge refused the government’s request for early possession.
- A Track Record Of Success And Client Satisfaction – Ask your prospective legal counsel for examples of success and satisfied clients. One client selected our firm to represent it a major eminent domain case after we were on the other side in an earlier case.
Your rights depend on the facts of your case and the strength of the evidence you have. These general examples may
not apply to your specific situation.