There are only a handful of really qualified condemnation attorneys in this state to take on such a case. It would be best for you to pick one of them. You wouldn’t go to your primary care physician if you needed brain surgery.
One approach to finding an attorney who is competent to handle a condemnation/eminent domain case is to check with other professionals in the field such as real estate salespeople, real estate brokers and realtors. Some attorneys advertise that they practice this area of law. Both Pima County and Maricopa County have County Bar Associations lawyer referral services. For a modest fee, one of the lawyer referral services will provide you with the name of an attorney and set up an appointment for you. It is never too early to be prepared and properly advised on these cases.
Only after you have had a chance to sit down and discuss your case with the lawyer you have tentatively selected to represent you, will you be in a position to make a decision to entrust your claim for full and “just compensation” to that professional. That lawyer should tell you what he or she thinks in a straight and forthright manner. And if a higher valuation cannot be reasonably justified, you need to know that early on too, so you don’t waste time and can have some piece of mind about it. If the first attorney you speak to doesn’t believe there is a realistic potential upside in valuation, then if you still have doubts you can always seek a second opinion. Click here for a link to the AZ Bar Association article on How to Talk to Your Lawyer.
We do not charge a landowner for a consultation. Typically, a landowner will contact an attorney and meet with him or her to discuss the property and what the government wants to do with it. Some of the things that will be discussed during the initial consultation are what appraisals have taken place and what the appraised amount is, what the property is currently used for, and what is the property’s potential and the landowner’s future plans for it. If the attorney thinks that the client might be entitled to more compensation than the government is offering, some additional investigation will probably be done.
The interesting thing about a condemnation or eminent domain case is that a landowner basically can’t lose. The very rare exception, following statements are generally true:
(1) In almost every case that goes to court the landowner will usually not get less than the amount the government appraisers have decided the property is worth.
(2) Assuming the landowner’s attorney feels there is justification for a greater amount of money, experts and evidence will be gathered to justify the greater amount of money and the jury will then decide what the property is worth. The only real risk to the landowner will be paying for these experts to do their work. But that expense is worth it considering the potential upside.
(3) The reason the landowner is usually at no risk of getting any less than the lowest amount testified to by the government’s witnesses, is that they generally are the appraisers who performed the appraisal for the government, with that lowest amount already contained in their appraisal. Its hard for the government to say “we mistakenly overestimated the value”. It is much more likely for us to prove that they underestimated the value.
(4) Since most cases settle, then the odds are very small of even facing this unlikely risk.
So, while technically the landowner must be aware of the risk of a lower jury verdict, the risk is actually very small. Therefore, when a condemnation attorney believes there is significant potential, that is a very good sign.