Valuation in eminent domain cases in New Jersey is a two-step process. The first step is the hearing by the condemnation commissioners. Upon determination that the condemning authority is authorized to and has duly exercised its power of eminent domain, the court appoints three commissioners to determine the compensation to be paid. The commissioners are residents of the county in which the property being condemned is located or, in the case of the commissioner who must be an attorney, be actively engaged in the practice of law in the county. One commissioner will be an attorney, who is admitted to practice in New Jersey for at least 10 years, and who will preside at all hearings and rule on all questions of evidence and procedure, subject to a review by a majority of the commissioners.
The second step in this process occurs if either the property owner or the condemning authority decides to appeal the award of the commissioners. The law gives any party who has appeared at the hearings of the commissioners, either personally or through an attorney, the right to appeal the award of the commissioners within 20 days of receipt of the award. The hearing on appeal shall be a trial de novo, without a jury, unless a jury trial is demanded. The award of the commissioners is not admitted to evidence in the event that the matter goes to trial. At any point in the process, settlement can take place.