The New "Bright Line" Rule in Condemnation Commission Trials: Regional Transportation District v. 750 W. 48th Ave., LLC
Jody Harper Alderman
In Colorado, when an entity exercises its eminent domain power, a property owner who owns private property that is being acquired may elect to have a jury or a commission of three freeholders determine the amount of just compensation due to the property owner for the taking of the property. If the property owner elects a commission to determine value, the valuation trial is a hybrid model. A presiding judge supervises the pre-trial process, hears in limine motions, issues commission instructions, and might be involved in evidentiary decisions during the valuation trial. The commission receives the evidence and makes decisions on evidentiary objections during the valuation trial—unless the commission requests the judge to assist in those decisions—and ultimately decides just compensation. The roles and responsibilities of the judge and the commission seem to overlap, but, recently, the Colorado Supreme Court in Regional Transportation District v. 750 West 48th Ave., LLC, promulgated a "bright line rule" defining the authority of the judge vis á vis the commission in condemnation cases. We now know that the trial court judge is the ultimate authority in a valuation trial to a commission.