UPDATE: Kansas freedom fighters win in Linn County: Officials issue new order, ensuring Fourth Amendment rights
May 18 – After facing a federal lawsuit and a hearing before a federal judge, Linn County’s health department has issued a new health order that respects the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens and visitors. The new Order allows for businesses to request a warrant or other judicial approval before certain records are disclosed during the COVID pandemic.
Both plaintiffs on the case moved to have their lawsuit dismissed. Jackie Taylor owns and publishes the Linn County News newspaper while Linda Jo Hisel owns and operates Nana Jo’s Café in Linn County.
“I’m happy we found a workable solution for the citizens of the County. Linn County ultimately did the right thing with this new Order, and we’re glad Kansas Justice Institute was there to help.” Said Jackie Taylor.
Sam MacRoberts of Kansas Justice Institute, who represented Taylor and Hisel said, “This case was about Linn County understanding that constitutional rights cannot be ignored. Even during a pandemic, we’re happy to stand up with Kansans to protect their rights and liberties.”
Linn County’s original order from May 1st required businesses to turn over lists of patrons to county officials without a warrant. On May 10th, Taylor and Hisel sued in federal court that this violated their Fourth Amendment rights. A hearing on a temporary restraining order was held by Judge Holly Teeter of U.S. District Court of Kansas on the afternoon of May 15th.
Plaintiff Linda Jo Hisel remarks, “We’re a close-knit community, and my customers are like family. I don’t want to put anyone’s health in jeopardy, but I’m not going to put anyone’s privacy in jeopardy either.”
Ryan Kriegshauser, an attorney from Olathe who joined KJI in the suit comments, “In this pandemic, we must find the correct balance between safety and civil rights. To do that we must vigorously push back when government oversteps as Linn County did here.”
Mr. MacRoberts offered this final thought on Linn County’s idea that their orders help with contact tracing, “In order for contact tracing to be effective, the community must be willing to participate. Heavy-handed mandates and threats won’t work here.”
Kansas Justice Institute is the litigation arm of the Kansas Policy Institute. KJI has been involved in several COVID-related actions involving free speech and won their first suit in 2019 to protect the First Amendment rights of raw milk dairies in Kansas.
Contact: Ellen Hathaway Ellen.Hathaway@kansaspolicy.org Communications Director at Kansas Policy Institute