Homeowners Appeal to Supreme Court after Police Totaled Their Home

‘For well over a century, the Supreme Court has enforced a simple rule: The government has to pay for private property it takes or destroys…’

(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) Colorado police officers in 2015 destroyed an innocent family’s home during their pursuit of an armed robber, but authorities refused to reimburse the family.

With the help of the Institute for Justice, the Lech family—Leo, Alfonsina and John—appealed to the Supreme Court on March 11 to hear their case and rule that Greenwood Village, Colorado must pay them for the damages that their home sustained, IJ reported.

Unlike a similar 2014 case in Idaho in which police officers wrecked a woman’s home in search of a suspect who was not even there, the Colorado police had legitimate reason to siege the Lech’s home, as the robber bunkered down in the home and shot at the officers.

The Leches argue that the police officer’s actions constitute an uncompensated “taking,” which the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment prohibits without just compensation.

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“For well over a century, the Supreme Court has enforced a simple rule: The government has to pay for private property it takes or destroys,” IJ Attorney Jeffrey Redfern said.

“Today, we asked the Court to apply that simple rule in the Lechs’ case. If the government requires a piece of property to be destroyed, then the government should pay for it—that’s just as true regardless of whether the people doing the destroying are the local school board or the local police.”

A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Lechs in October 2019, asserting that governments are not responsible for damages that occur when they are using the “police power.”

“The police are allowed to destroy property if they need to in order to do their jobs safely,” IJ Senior Attorney Robert McNamara said. “But if the government destroys someone’s property in order to benefit the public, it is only fair that the public rather than an innocent property owner pay for that benefit.”