Seeking Just Compensation for an Indiana Mom

Marie Miller
Marie Miller  ·  February 1, 2024

One Friday afternoon in June 2022, Amy Hadley was away from her South Bend, Indiana home with her daughter, Kayla, when she received a phone call from a neighbor: Amy’s house was surrounded by police. Amy and Kayla rushed home but couldn’t get close. Nearly the entire block was cordoned off by crime scene tape and police officers in SWAT gear. There was no sign of Noah, Amy’s 15-year-old son, who had stayed home with the family kitten to play video games.

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Amy was flabbergasted. “What’s going on?” she asked an officer. He replied that they were looking for a dangerous suspect and believed he was inside her house. Amy asked who it was and explained that only Noah had been home. The police knew that Amy’s son was inside when they arrived; they also knew that he wasn’t any longer. When they surrounded the house and ordered anyone inside to evacuate, the teen came out with his hands up high. Although the police didn’t suspect him of any crime, they handcuffed him and took him to the station. 

Amy again asked the officer whom they were looking for. He showed a photo of a man known as “J.B.” or “JayBee.” Amy and Kayla said they didn’t know him and had never seen him before—and, thanks to their security cameras, they would have known if a stranger were inside the house.

The police didn’t believe them, just as they hadn’t believed Noah earlier when he tried to explain the same thing. Instead, officers launched dozens of tear gas and flash-bang grenades into the house, shattering windows, blasting holes in walls, flipping furniture, and ransacking the whole house, from attic to basement.

As the Hadleys had insisted, the house was empty; the police had made a big mistake. But no one apologized to Amy or mentioned who would pay for the damage. She retrieved Noah from the police station, and the family was left to clean up the mess alone, sleeping in the driveway until the fumes from the tear gas dissipated. When Amy reached out to both the city and the county asking for compensation, she got a clear “no.”

That response was wrong and unconstitutional. When the government takes private property for a public purpose—law enforcement included—both the U.S. and Indiana Constitutions require that the government give the owner “just compensation.” Amy’s local governments failed her. They left her with thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to shoulder herself and left her house uninhabitable for days. 

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Amy. Courts have repeatedly carved exceptions into constitutional protections against government takings, and this is the latest in a series of IJ cases—including one we argued at the U.S. Supreme Court just last month—designed to ensure that “you break it, you buy it” applies to law enforcement just as it does to any of us.

No innocent person should have to alone pay for services that benefit the public as a whole—especially when the cost is one’s own home.

Marie Miller is an IJ attorney.

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