Illinois Appellate Court Second District applies Fourth Amendment to civil discovery order to inspect a landfill

Although this is not a criminal case, this is an interesting civil case where the Illinois Appellate Court invoked Fifth Amendment principles from cases like Carpenter to conclude that a civil court judge was wrong to order a civil inspection as part of a discovery order and then find the owner in contempt when the order was not onbeyed.

The Illinois Appellate Court held that the discovery order was a search for Fourth Amendment purposes that requires probable cause. After some historical discussion of the purposes of the Fourth Amendment, the Court turned to the 1886 U.S. Supreme Court case of Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 6 S. Ct. 524, 29 L. Ed. 746 (1886). Boyd was a civil forfeiture case against 35 cases of plate glass. “The government alleged that the partners of E.A. Boyd & Sons fraudulently imported the plate glass without paying the prescribed tax. The district court ordered the partners to produce an invoice regarding the value and quantity of the imported glass.” The Appellate Court relied on the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding that the proceeding requiring invoice production and the statute for which the District Court relied in making the order to be unconstitutional in violation of the Fourth (and Fifth) Amendment.

The appellate court emphasized the following language in Boyd to elaborate on the application of the Fourth Amendment to this contempt order:

“Reverting then to the peculiar phraseology of this act, and to the information in the present case, which is founded on it, we have to deal with an act which expressly excludes criminal proceedings from its operation, (though embracing civil suits for penalties and forfeitures,) and with an information not technically a criminal proceeding, and neither, therefore, within the literal terms of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution any more than it is within the literal terms of the Fourth. Does this relieve the proceedings or the law from being obnoxious to the prohibitions of either? We think not; we think they are within the spirit of both.”

Turning to the discovery order, the Appellate Court held based on precedent cited that this civil discovery order was violative of the Fourth Amendment. They found that the owner maintains a privacy interest in the landfill and should be viewed through a Fourth Amendment lens. Because the Attorney General never made any showing past relevance to support the reasonableness of the search of the site, there was no basis within the Fourth Amendment to support the search.

The case is People ex rel. Lisa Madigan, Attorney General of the State of Illinois v. Stateline Recycling, LLC and Elizabeth Reents, 2018 IL App (2d) 170860, 2018 Ill. App. LEXIS 1002 (Ill. App. Ct. 2d Dist.) December 27, 2018.

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