Judge Tosses Seattle’s Absurd Ordinance Requiring Warrantless Garbage-Can Searches

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National Embarrassment: Seattle Public Utilities Privacy Violating Ordinance Laughed Out of Court.

Under the 2015 ordinance, garbage collectors were required to determine by “visual inspection” whether more than 10 percent of a trash can’s contents were made up of recyclable items or food waste. Violators are subject to fines.

The lawsuit argued that the ordinance essentially allowed warrantless searches, an invasion of privacy, and a ‘policy of massive and persistent snooping.’

Valerie Richardson reports: A state judge threw out a portion of a Seattle ordinance requiring garbage collectors to snoop through residents’ trash in search of food waste, calling the provision unconstitutional.

“Seattle can’t place its composting goals over the privacy rights of its residents.”

King County Superior Court Judge Beth M. Andrus issued an injunction against the garbage inspections but not Seattle’s residential food-waste ban, which forbids throwing away food scraps and compostable paper.

“A clear message has been sent to Seattle public officials: Recycling and other environmental initiatives can’t be pursued in a way that treats people’s freedoms as disposable.”

“This ruling does not prohibit the city from banning food waste and compostable paper in SPU-provided garbage cans,” the 14-page decision said, referring to the Seattle Public Utilities. “It merely renders invalid the provisions of the ordinance and rule that authorize a warrantless search of residents’ garbage cans when there is no applicable exception to the warrant requirement, such as the existence of prohibited items in plain view.”

Big-Bro

Under the 2015 ordinance, garbage collectors were required to determine by “visual inspection” whether more than 10 percent of a trash can’s contents were made up of recyclable items or food waste. Violators are subject to having their garbage cans tagged and fines of $1 per can for curbside collections or $50 per collection for multi-family units. Read the rest of this entry »


Bonesteel v. City of Seattle: Pacific Legal Foundation Sues Seattle Bureaucrats Who Want to Snoop Through Your Trashcans

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“A person has a legitimate expectation that the contents of his or her garbage cans will remain private and free from government inspection.”

PLF sued the City of Seattle this morning in Bonesteel v. City of Seattle to challenge sweeping surveillance of residents and businesses. The City’s zeal for bumping its recycling rate bypassed constitutional boundaries when Seattle decided to have trash collectors and inspectors poke around for compostable contraband, such as pizza crusts, chicken bones, or those evil red velvet cakes.

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Authorized? The Pacific Legal Foundation doesn’t think so.

The Washington State Constitution contains a robust right to privacy. The state Supreme Court has held that the state’s privacy right prohibits trash inspections without suspicion or a warrant. PLF’s complaint also challenges the composting mandate’s failure to provide any avenue to challenge the trash collector’s estimate that you throw out too much food. Regardless of its intentions, Seattle needs a reminder that composting doesn’t trump the Constitution.

“The law makes garbage collectors the judges and the juries.”

— Brian Hodges, Pacific Legal Foundation’s principal attorney

Check out the video below and the case web page to learn more.

For the Seattle Times reports:

Privacy advocates say Seattle is violating residents’ privacy “on a massive scale” by having garbage haulers look through people’s trash to make sure food scraps are going into the yard waste, not the garbage.

Privacy advocates say Seattle is violating residents’ privacy “on a massive scale” by having garbage haulers look through people’s trash to make sure food scraps are going into the yard waste, not the garbage.

A group of privacy advocates is suing the city of Seattle, arguing that having garbage collectors look through people’s trash — to make sure food scraps aren’t going into the garbage — “violates privacy rights on a massive scale.”

“A person has a legitimate expectation that the contents of his or her garbage cans will remain private and free from government inspection,” argues the lawsuit filed Thursday in King County Superior Court by the Pacific Legal Foundation.

Since January, Seattle residents have been directed to place food scraps in the same bins as their yard waste, so that the material can be composted, instead of into garbage cans, where it would end up in a landfill. Read the rest of this entry »


Will: Progressives are Wrong About the Essence of the Constitution

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 writes: In a 2006 interviewSupreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said the Constitutionis “basically about” one word — “democracy” — that appears in neither that document nor the Declaration of Independence. Democracy is America’s way of allocating political power. The Constitution, however, was adopted to confine that power in order to “secure the blessings of” that which simultaneously justifies and limits democratic government — natural liberty.

The fundamental division in U.S. politics is between those who take their bearings from the individual’s right to a capacious, indeed indefinite, realm of freedom, and those whose fundamental value is the right of the majority to have its way in making rules about which specified liberties shall be respected.

Now the nation no longer lacks what it has long needed, a slender book that lucidly explains the intensity of conservatism’s disagreements with progressivism. For the many Americans who are puzzled and dismayed by the heatedness of political argument today, the message of Timothy Sandefur’s “The Conscience of the Constitution: The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty” is this: The temperature of today’s politics is commensurate to the stakes of today’s argument.

The argument is between conservatives who say U.S. politics is basically about a condition, liberty, and progressives who say it is about a process, democracy. Progressives, who consider democracy the source of liberty, reverse the Founders’ premise, which was: Liberty preexists governments, which, the Declaration says, are legitimate when “instituted” to “secure” natural rights.

Read the rest of this entry »