Litigation Update: Baker v. City of McKinney, Texas - Police Destruction, Eminent Domain, and Just Compensation

If the police destroy private property in pursuit of a criminal fugitive, is the government required to compensate the owner for the damages?  Many courts have denied such claims, but in June 2022, a federal court in Texas ruled that police destruction of a private home is a compensable taking.  The ruling was followed by a jury award of $59,656 for severe damage caused to plaintiff’s home by a police SWAT team that was attempting to apprehend a fleeing fugitive.

In Baker v. City of McKinney, Texas, no one disputes that pursuing a fleeing criminal is a legitimate police function.  However, plaintiff contended that an innocent citizen should not have to pay for the damages.  Governments across the country have taken the position that this sort of damage is not compensable because it is caused by officers acting pursuant to the police powers, rather than a government acting pursuant to its power of eminent domain. Should it matter for takings and just compensation whether a citizen’s home is destroyed during law-enforcement operations or through a physical or regulatory taking? 

For this litigation update, please join Institute for Justice Attorney Jeff Redfern, lead attorney for the plaintiff in Baker, and moderator, Ilya Somin, for an enlightening discussion on the intersection of police powers and eminent domain.

Jeff Redfern, Attorney, Institute for Justice
Moderator: Ilya Somin, Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University


As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.