Woman asks Supreme Court to uphold ‘just compensation’

By Bob Unruh

A Texas woman is asking the Supreme Court to uphold the Constitution’s call for “just compensation” when authorities take private property.

The Institute for Justice explains that Vicki Baker, of McKinney, Texas, is seeking reimbursement for some $60,000 in damages police did to her home while pursuing a fugitive.

“Getting dangerous criminals off the streets is a legitimate government function, but when police destroy innocent people’s property in the process, the government must pay just compensation,” said IJ senior attorney Jeffrey Redfern. “The Supreme Court has a chance to make it clear that the 5th Amendment’s Takings Clause applies to police powers, just like it does to any other government action that destroys innocent people’s property.”

Baker was entirely innocent in the situation, the IJ explained.

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“In July 2020, a fugitive barricaded himself inside a house with a ‘for sale’ sign out front. That house happened to belong to Vicki, who was not home and was under contract to sell it. After a prolonged standoff, the McKinney SWAT team stormed the house, launching tear-gas grenades, knocking down doors, running over the fence with an armored vehicle, and blinding Vicki’s dog in the process,” the IJ said.

The legal team explained the “raid” not only caused massive damages, it triggered the buyer to back out of the deal.

Further, she explained, “I lost so many family heirlooms, classic books, and clothing that were damaged by the tear gas. It was devastating to be told there was no way to receive compensation for all the destruction I came home to. I’m asking the Supreme Court to hear this case, so nobody else has to go through what I went through.”

A trial court had ruled she should be compensated, but that was overturned by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Her insurance did not cover “acts of the government,” and the city simply refused to pay for damages its officers did.

At trial the court ruled the city was “liable for a taking,” but the appeals court reversed the decision.

But six of the judges at the 5th Circuit had wanted the case reopened.

“The fact that so many judges were prepared to rehear this case shows there is some dissent from the idea that cities are immune from paying just compensation when police destroy innocent people’s property,” said IJ attorney Suranjan Sen. “We frequently hear stories similar to Vicki’s, which is why it is so important for the Supreme Court to hear this case now. If the government breaks it, the government should pay for it.”

It’s one of several cases the IJ is handling for property owners who sustained damages – and huge financial losses – because of police action that destroyed their properties.

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