IJ Minnesota won another victory in its battle to protect Minnesotans from unconstitutional searches of their homes and properties.
On December 23, a state district court concluded that the city of Red Wing’s rental housing inspection program violated the U.S. Constitution because it did not “contain reasonable standards controlling the use and dissemination of the data collected during [rental] inspections to adequately protect the privacy of the citizens subject to inspection.” Furthermore, the court found that “the scope of the [rental inspection program] is overly broad in that it grants inspectors too much discretion in deciding whether or not to search cabinets and closets.” As a result, the court denied for the third time the city’s application for an administrative warrant.
This ruling vindicates what IJ attorneys and our clients—courageous landlords and tenants standing against Red Wing’s program—have known all along: Inspection programs that authorize invasive searches without any evidence of a problem or code violation in a particular home are unconstitutional.
After three rounds, landlord and IJ client Robert McCaughtry has had enough of Red Wing’s seemingly endless efforts to violate his rights as well as the rights of his tenants: “What will it take for the city to end this foolish program? Forcing its way into people’s homes without any evidence of a problem or code violation is outrageous.”
Unfortunately, the court said people like McCaughtry could not file their own lawsuit to protect themselves from invasive searches until a warrant was actually granted. This is wrong because it allows cities like Red Wing to play constitutional trial-and-error while people are left fighting a never-ending procession of warrants. Landlords and tenants should be able to challenge an unconstitutional law from the moment it hits the books.
IJ will appeal that portion of the decision that leaves our clients in constitutional limbo, and will continue to fight for the rights of all homeowners and renters to be free from unreasonable searches. Hopefully, this case will be a lesson to other cities before they try to arbitrarily trample on the private property of their citizens.
Jason Adkins is an IJ Minnesota Chapter staff attorney.