Bev Van Dam and Amanda Wink, June

Bev Van Dam and Amanda Wink are suing the city of Orange City because of mandatory residential health searches they say violate their property and privacy rights. Wink rents her house from Van Dam and the two are co-workers in town.

ORANGE CITY—The lawsuit against Orange City put forth by a few renters in the Sioux County community is moving forward.

Sioux County District Court Judge Patrick Tott denied a petition Oct. 14 that would have dismissed the case brought by two rental companies and five residents in Orange City against the city government over its health inspection policy they allege violates their privacy rights.

The city policy requires rental residences to be searched by city representatives for items such as fire extinguishers and gas detectors. Noncompliance leads to a fine for the property owners.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-aligned law firm in Virginia.

“The public needs to know that these are valid causes of action you have against the government,” said Institute for Justice attorney Rob Peccola.

“When you feel uncomfortable with something like this, you do have standing to be able to go into court and assert your rights.”

The Orange City defense team is led by Zac Clausen of Klass Law in Sioux City, which has not responded to press inquiries.

The team attempted to have the case thrown out, reasoning that because the inspections had not oc­­curred, privacy could not have been violated.

Tott rejected that argument.

He wrote: “If the Plaintiffs are required to wait until the inspection is in process, they will have little, or likely no, recourse to the Courts to prevent the injury(ies) they assert they will suffer to their privacy rights.”

The motion denial reads:

“It is clear that each of the plaintiffs have a personal and legal interest in the litigation. Each are seeking to protect what they perceive to be their Article I, Section 8 rights in their residences or real estate that they own. In light of the language of the ordinance it is equally clear that the plaintiffs have been injuriously affected in a concrete and imminent manner.”

Article I, Section 8 is the Iowa equivalent to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which protects against unreasonable search and seizure and sets requirements for court-ordered warrants.

“The police cannot do a door-to-door sweep of a neighborhood thinking there might be a violation somewhere inside,” Peccola said.

“There has to be reason enough, to put it on paper submitted to a judge, and get a valid search warrant. This is really what this case comes down to in a nutshell.”

Tott further wrote: “If the plaintiffs are required to wait until the inspection is in process, they will have little, or likely no, recourse to the courts to prevent the injury(ies) they assert they will suffer to their privacy rights.”

The case moves to the fact-finding phase, which can last several months.

“We’re just so happy to live to fight another day and eventually get a ruling on the merits,” Peccola said.