May 10, 2020 – A recent order by the Linn County (Kansas) health officer has sparked a federal lawsuit from two Linn County residents. In the suit, Jackie Taylor and Linda Jo Hisel contend that the health Order violates their Fourth Amendment rights.
The Linn Co. Order was issued on May 1, 2020, and requires nearly all businesses, including law and doctor offices, in Linn Co. to keep a record of who visits their establishment. The lists of names and contact information are required to be turned over to county officials upon request, for any reason. Ostensibly, the Order would be to aid in “contact tracing” of COVID cases.
Sam MacRoberts, litigation director for Kansas Justice Institute who filed the case on behalf of Ms. Taylor and Ms. Hisel, said, “Constitutional rights do not get suspended during a pandemic. There is a clear process by which governments can obtain business and personal records. Unfortunately, Linn County has ignored that process and put the basic rights of its citizens in serious jeopardy.”
Olathe attorney Ryan Kriegshauser joined KJI in the suit and said, “In a time of crisis we must adhere even closer to our constitutional principles, not abandon them. The Order requiring businesses, particularly law firms and medical facilities, to track customers and report them to the government on demand, must be challenged.”
Ms. Taylor said, “We have a great deal of trust in our county officials, but this just goes too far. COVID is serious, but we can’t let our most-basic rights be eroded.
Jackie Taylor is the owner and publisher of The Linn County News, and Linda Jo Hisel runs a restaurant in La Cygne. Both are long-time Linn Co. residents.
Mr. MacRoberts continued, “Governments officials cannot be permitted to conduct warrantless searches. If we don’t stand up for our rights, we’ll lose them.”
Ms. Hisel offered, “The people coming to my restaurant are practically family, and I shouldn’t be expected to keep tabs on them for the government.”
Mr. MacRoberts concluded with, “We filed this lawsuit on behalf of Jackie and Linda Jo to hold the government accountable. It’s just as important now, perhaps more so, to follow the rule of law and respect our constitutional rights. The government does not get a free pass, even during a pandemic.”
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, Communications Director of Kansas Policy Institute
(316) 634-0218 or Ellen.Hathaway@KansasPolicy.org