Title page for ETD etd-12182009-080440

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Olejarski, Amanda Marie
Author's Email Address amandao@vt.edu
URN etd-12182009-080440
Title Whose Hand to Hold? How Administrators Understand Eminent Domain and Where They Turn for Guidance
Degree PhD
Department Public Administration and Public Affairs
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Dudley, Larkin S. Committee Chair
Richardson, Jesse J. Committee Member
Rohr, John A. Committee Member
Wamsley, Gary L. Committee Member
  • eminent domain
  • administrative discretion
  • professionalism
  • implementation of a legal case
Date of Defense 2009-12-04
Availability unrestricted
Controversies surrounding issues related to eminent domain remain in the forefront of academic and public debate, largely attributed to the United States Supreme Court’s landmark 2005 ruling on the subject. Much of the academic discourse on eminent domain centers on constitutional dimensions of public use and just compensation or procedural components of transaction costs and regulation v. flexibility. Noticeably absent from the scholarly conversation, however, is the study of how public administrators actually involved in the process of eminent domain understand relevant issues. This silence has resulted in significant gaps between the study of the purpose and mechanics of eminent domain. How these public administrators understand eminent domain and where they search for guidance are significant questions that may inform and extend existing research on eminent domain. Particularly important to this research are the ways in which administrators’ professionalism affects their administrative discretion in the implementation of a legal case, Kelo. Relying on survey and elite interview analysis with public administrators in the state of Connecticut, the birthplace of the Kelo case, this research seeks to answer the following four questions: How do administrators understand eminent domain, where do they turn for guidance, how do they interpret and understand takings law post-Kelo, and how do they understand “public” post-Kelo? This study finds support that administrators are generally unaccepting of eminent domain when used under the Kelo conditions, that they favor a notion of public use incorporating some degree of use by the public, and that they are most likely to turn to statutory and constitutional resources for eminent domain guidance. Further, the interviews were particularly useful in developing a four-part typology of administrators’ understanding of eminent domain.
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