What is Just Compensation?

Article — Volume 105, Issue 8

105 Va. L. Rev. 1483
Download PDF

The Supreme Court has held that “[t]he word ‘just’ in [‘just compensation’] . . . evokes ideas of ‘fairness.’” But the Court has not been able to discern how it ensures fairness. Scholars have responded with a number of novel policy proposals designed to assess a fairer compensation in takings.

This Article approaches the ambiguity as a problem of history. It traces the history of the “just compensation” clause to the English writ of ad quod damnum in search of evidence that may shed light on how the clause was intended to ensure fairness. This historical inquiry yields a striking result. The word “just” imposes a procedural requirement on compensation: a jury must set compensation for it to be just.

This historical understanding is especially important to modern law since the Supreme Court applies a historical test to determine whether the Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a jury. This Article corrects the common misperception that juries did not determine just compensation in eighteenth-century English and colonial practice.

Click on a link below to access the full text of this article. These are third-party content providers and may require a separate subscription for access.

  Volume 105 / Issue 8  

What is Just Compensation?

By Wanling Su
105 Va. L. Rev. 1483

Federalism, Metropolitanism, and the Problem of States

By Richard C. Schragger
105 Va. L. Rev. 1537

Speech Across Borders

By Jennifer Daskal
105 Va. L. Rev. 1605

Unshackling the Due Process Rights of Asylum-Seekers

By Sara DeStefano
105 Va. L. Rev. 1667