North Dakota eminent domain laws can be found in Chapter 32-15 of the North Dakota Century Code. Pursuant to N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-01, eminent domain is the right to take private property for public use.
Private property may not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation first having been made to or paid into court for the owner[i]. Similarly, when private property is taken by a person, no benefit to accrue from the proposed improvement may be allowed in ascertaining the compensation to be made. Also, private property may not be taken for the use of or ownership by, any private individual or entity, unless that property is necessary for conducting a common carrier or utility business.
The right of eminent domain may be exercised on behalf of the following public uses[ii]:
- All public uses authorized by the government of the U.S.
- Public buildings and grounds for the use of the state and all other public uses authorized by the legislative assembly of the state.
- Public buildings and grounds for the use of any county, city, park district, or school district. Canals, aqueducts, flumes, ditches, or pipes for conducting water for the use of the inhabitants of any county or city. Raising the banks of streams, removing obstructions, and widening, deepening, or straightening their channels. Roads, streets, and alleys, and all other uses for the benefit of any county, city, or park district, or the inhabitants thereof, which may be authorized by the legislative assembly.
- Wharves, docks, piers, chutes, booms, ferries, bridges, toll roads, byroads, plank and turnpike roads, railroads and street railways, electric light plants and power transmission lines and canals, ditches, flumes, aqueducts, and pipes for public transportation, supplying mines, and irrigating, draining, and reclaiming lands.
- Roads, tunnels, ditches, flumes, pipes, and dumping places for working mines, outlets, natural or otherwise, for the flow, deposit, or conduct of the tailings or refuse from mines and mill dams.
- Byroads leading from highways to residences and farms.
- Telegraph and telephone lines.
- Sewage disposal of any city, or of any settlement consisting of not less than ten families, or of any public buildings belonging to the state, or of any college or university.
- Cemeteries and public parks.
- Oil, gas, coal, and carbon dioxide pipelines and works and plants for supplying or conducting gas, oil, coal, carbon dioxide, heat, refrigeration, or power for the use of any county, city, or the inhabitants thereof.
- Lands sought to be acquired by the state or any duly authorized and designated state official or board, which lands necessarily must be flooded in widening or raising the waters of any body or stream of navigable or public water in the state of North Dakota.
The private properties which may be taken include[iii]:
- All real property belonging to any person.
- Lands belonging to North Dakota or to any county, city, or park district, not appropriated to some public use.
- Property appropriated to public use.
- Franchises for toll roads, toll bridges, ferries, and all other franchises.
- Any system of waterworks, electric light and power plant, wells, reservoirs, pipelines, machinery, franchises, and all other property of any character whatsoever comprising a waterworks system or an electric light and power system.
- All rights of way for any and all structures and improvements thereon, and the lands held or used in connection therewith.
- All classes of private property not enumerated may be taken for public use when such a taking is authorized by law.
N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-06 provides that in all cases when land is required for public use, the person or corporation, or the person’s or corporation’s agents, in charge of such use may survey and locate the same, but it must be located in the manner which will be compatible with the greatest public benefit and the least private injury.
A condemnor should make every reasonable and diligent effort to acquire property by negotiation[iv]. Before initiating negotiations for the purchase of property, the condemnor should establish an amount which it believes to be just compensation.
Whenever in an action brought, an issue is formed whereby it appears that the attendance of a jury will be necessary to assess the damages in such action, the plaintiff may apply to the judge of the district court where the same is pending for an order requiring a jury to be summoned to assess the damages in such action[v]. Thereupon the judge issues an order to the clerk of said court requiring a jury to be summoned.
Pursuant to N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-16, the court sits at a special term to hear the case according to law and the practice of the court. The trial of any action may be held at any general, special, or adjourned term of district court, held or called in the county in which such action may be pending, and such action may be tried at any such term[vi].
N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-19 provides that all parcels of land lying in the county and required for the same public use may be included in the same or separate proceedings, at the option of the plaintiff, but the court may consolidate or separate them to suit the convenience of parties.
N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-20 provides that all persons in occupation of, or having or claiming an interest in, any of the property described in the complaint or in the damages for the taking thereof, though not named, may appear, plead, and defend, each in respect to such person’s own property or interest, or that claimed by such person, in like manner as if named in the complaint.
The jury or court hears legal testimony as may be offered by any of the parties to the proceedings and thereupon must ascertain and assess the value of the property sought to be condemned and all improvements thereon pertaining to the realty and of each and every separate estate or interest therein[vii]. Compensation must be assessed separately for property actually taken and for damages to that which is not taken.
For the purpose of assessing compensation and damages, the right thereto is deemed to have accrued at the date of the taking and its actual value at that date is the measure of compensation for all property actually to be taken, and the basis of damages to the property not actually taken, but injuriously affected, in all cases when such damages are allowed[viii].
The plaintiff, within thirty days after the entry of final judgment, must pay the sum of money assessed[ix]. Payment may be made to the defendant entitled thereto or the money may be deposited in court for the defendant and distributed to those entitled thereto[x].
When payment is made, the court must make a final order of condemnation, which must describe the property condemned and the purposes of such condemnation[xi]. A copy of the order must be filed in the office of the recorder of the county and thereupon the property described therein vests in the plaintiff for the purposes therein specified.
In the event that any property is being acquired by any public corporation through condemnation proceedings, such public corporation, within six months after the entry of a judgment should pay into court the full amount of the judgment on account of damages[xii].
N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-29 provides that at any time after the entry of judgment, the district court in which the proceeding was tried may authorize the plaintiff to take possession of and use the property during the pendency of and until the final conclusion of the litigation and, if necessary, may stay all actions and proceedings against the plaintiff on account thereof.
[i] N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-01.
[ii] N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-02.
[iii] N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-04.
[iv] N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-06.1.
[v] N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-13.
[vi] N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-17.
[vii] N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-22.
[viii] N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-23.
[ix] N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-25.
[x] N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-26.
[xi] N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-27.
[xii] N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-15-28.