Orange City, Iowa, Tenants Make Winning First Impression in Court

February 1, 2022

IJ cases empower citizens to vindicate their rights by holding government accountable. In October, a district court in Iowa delivered that vindication to IJ’s clients.

In February 2021, Orange City passed an inspection ordinance that permits code inspectors to enter family homes like that of IJ client Amanda Wink without residents’ permission—and without a warrant supported by individualized probable cause. Because renters have property rights, too, Amanda wasted no time responding to this threat, and, in May 2021, IJ filed suit on her behalf under the Iowa Constitution. The government’s dangerous response to this lawsuit was all too common in Fourth Amendment challenges: It claimed that tenants could not assert their privacy and property rights until after the government carried out its unconstitutional search.

Thankfully, this past October, following briefing and oral argument, the state court rejected this argument, writing that forcing people like our clients to wait until an inspection is in progress means “they will have little, or likely no, recourse to the Courts to prevent the injur[ies] they assert they will suffer to their privacy rights.” This ruling put Amanda and our other clients back in the driver’s seat. And IJ attorneys can now take discovery to find out how the city enforces its inspection regime.

The Iowa Constitution provides even greater protection for the right to be free from unreasonable searches than the Fourth Amendment does, but that right is meaningless unless citizens have a way to enforce it in court. Thanks to IJ, Iowans can stand taller knowing that when the government knocks at their door, they have a right to fight back.

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