Oh lo, how many years have passed since one of the country’s leading property rights attorneys asked me to meet with him and his assistant to go over my deposition prior to giving it. He was the lead property rights attorney for Florida’s oldest law firm. He was located over 400 miles away, and wanted me to meet him at a pancake house at 5:00 AM. My deposition was at 9:00 AM the same day. The matter evolved around the governments taking of private property for public use – eminent domain – which may be found under Article 5 of the Bill of Rights. The issue of eminent domain is, and was, so crucially important to our founding fathers that the same number of jurors required for capital murder is also required for eminent domain trials. When you work in the field of eminent domain you are working in the literal heartbeat of our constitution.
A couple of decades ago I hung a picture on my office wall. I hung it there at the beginning of my career in appraising trees and plants. The caption under the picture reads, “Do you want your assessment to show how much your tree is worth, or how little it is worth – it’s a matter of emphasis”. Setting aside the naïveté of the statement, the question remains the matter of emphasis in the approach used to valuation – and the ethical repercussions which ensue.