One East Plume Street is the historic Norfolk building that had just been restored in 1982 when Howell, Anninos, Daugherty, Brown & Lawrence moved in with a new associate named Henry E. Howell, III (“Hank”). In 2010, Hank returned to One East Plume Street as the founder of The Eminent Domain Litigation Group. P.L.C. to represent individuals against the government in the same place he began his career representing individuals against large corporations in tort and employment cases while working side-by-side with his father Lieutenant Governor Henry Howell.
Henry Howell’s message was and is that it is possible to “Keep the Big Boys Honest” at least some of the time. In eminent domain cases, the big boys must always be not only honest, but also just. This must be without fail. Our Constitutions must still protect citizens against the overreach of government, its agents, and its instrumentalities, even when they believe they are acting with the best of intentions. All too often those with the power of eminent domain do not have an understanding of the fundamental constitutional right to own private property without the government’s taking it unnecessarily or without payment of just compensation in the full sense of this constitutional principle. Many making the decisions on government and utility takings have never owned a farm or business and have always had careers in large bureaucracies, either government or private, or received a regular pay check from them. That is the way it is and is often the cause of eminent domain abuse. As United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis observed:
Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.
It is befitting that The Eminent Domain Litigation Group should begin at One East Plume Street. Come take a tour of the building with Hank.