452 U.S. 594 (1981), 80-901, Donovan v. Dewey

Docket Nº:No. 80-901
Citation:452 U.S. 594, 101 S.Ct. 2534, 69 L.Ed.2d 262
Party Name:Donovan v. Dewey
Case Date:June 17, 1981
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 594

452 U.S. 594 (1981)

101 S.Ct. 2534, 69 L.Ed.2d 262

Donovan

v.

Dewey

No. 80-901

United States Supreme Court

June 17, 1981

Argued April 28, 1981

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR

THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN

Syllabus

Section 103(a) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 requires federal mine inspectors to inspect underground mines at least four times a year and surface mines at least twice a year to ensure compliance with health and safety standards, and to make followup inspections to determine whether previously discovered violations have been corrected. The section also grants inspectors the right of entry to any coal or other mine and provides that no advance notice of an inspection need be given. If a mine operator refuses to allow a warrantless inspection under § 103(a), the Secretary of Labor is authorized to bring a civil action for injunctive or other relief. When a federal inspector attempted a followup [101 S.Ct. 2536] inspection of appellee company's stone quarries, appellee officer of the company refused to allow the inspection to continue. Subsequently, the Secretary of Labor filed suit in Federal District Court seeking to enjoin the company from refusing to permit warrantless searches of its facility. The District Court granted summary judgment for appellees on the ground that the Fourth Amendment prohibited the warrantless searches authorized by § 103(a).

Held: The warrantless inspections required by § 103(a) do not violate the Fourth Amendment, but instead are reasonable within the meaning of that Amendment. Pp. 598-606.

(a) Unlike searches of private homes, which generally must be conducted pursuant to a warrant in order to be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, legislative schemes authorizing warrantless administrative searches of commercial property do not necessarily violate that Amendment. A warrant may not be constitutionally required when Congress has reasonably determined that warrantless searches are necessary to further a regulatory scheme, and the federal regulatory presence is sufficiently comprehensive and defined that the owner of commercial property cannot help but be aware that his property will be subject to periodic inspections undertaken for specific purposes. Pp. 598-602.

(b) Here, in view of the substantial federal interest in improving the health and safety conditions in mines, and of Congress' awareness that the mining industry is among the most hazardous and that this industry's poor health and safety record has significant deleterious effects on

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interstate commerce, Congress could reasonably determine that a system of warrantless inspections was necessary "if the law is to be properly enforced and inspection made effective." United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. 311, 316. Pp. 602-603.

(c) Moreover, the statute's inspection program, in terms of the certainty and regularity of its application, provides a constitutionally adequate substitute for a warrant. Marshall v. Barlow's Inc., 436 U.S. 307, distinguished. Pp. 603-604.

(d) The fact that stone quarries, as opposed to underground mines, do not have a long tradition of Government regulation does not, in itself, mean that the warrantless inspection in question violated the Fourth Amendment. It is the pervasiveness and regularity of federal regulation that ultimately determines whether a warrant is necessary to render an inspection program reasonable under that Amendment. If the length of regulation were the only criterion, absurd results would occur which the Fourth Amendment's concept of reasonableness would not tolerate. Pp. 604-606.

493 F.Supp. 963, reversed and remanded.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 606. REHNQUIST, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 608. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 609.

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MARSHALL, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case, we consider whether § 103(a) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 30 U.S.C. § 813(a) (1976 ed., Supp. III), which authorizes warrantless inspections of underground and surface mines, violates the Fourth Amendment. Concluding that searches conducted pursuant to this provision are reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, we reverse the judgment of the District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin invalidating the statute.

I

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 91 Stat. 1290, 30 U.S.C. § 801 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp. III), requires the Secretary of Labor to develop detailed mandatory health and safety standards to govern the operation of the Nation's mines. 30 U.S.C. § 811 (1976 ed., Supp. III). [101 S.Ct. 2537]1 Section 103(a) of the Act, 30 U.S.C. § 813(a) (1976 ed., Supp. III), provides that federal mine inspectors are to inspect underground mines at least four times per year and surface mines at least twice a year to insure compliance with these standards, and to make followup inspections to determine whether previously discovered violations have been corrected. This section also grants mine inspectors "a right of entry to, upon, or through any coal or other mine,"2 and states that "no advance notice of an inspection shall be provided to any person." If a mine operator refuses to allow a warrantless inspection conducted pursuant to § 103(a), the Secretary

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is authorized to institute a civil action to obtain injunctive or other appropriate relief. 30 U.S.C. § 818(a)(1)(C) (1976 ed., Supp. III).

In July, 1978, a federal mine inspector attempted to inspect quarries owned by appellee Waukesha Lime and Stone Co. in order to determine whether all 25 safety and health violations uncovered during a prior inspection had been corrected. After the inspector had been on the site for about an hour, Waukesha's president, appellee Douglas Dewey, refused to allow the inspection to continue unless the inspector first obtain a search warrant. The inspector issued a citation to Waukesha for terminating the inspection,3 and the Secretary subsequently filed this civil action in the District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin seeking to enjoin appellees from refusing to permit warrantless searches of the Waukesha facility.

The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of appellees on the ground that the Fourth Amendment prohibited the warrantless searches of stone quarries authorized by § 103(a) of the Act.4 493 F.Supp. 963 (1980). The

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Secretary appealed directly to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1252. Because the District Court's ruling invalidated an important provision of the Mine Safety and Health Act, we noted probable jurisdiction.5 Sub nom. Marshall v. Dewey, 449 U.S. 1122 (1981).

II

Our prior cases have established that the Fourth Amendment's prohibition [101 S.Ct. 2538] against unreasonable searches applies to administrative inspections of private commercial property. Marshall v. Barlow's Inc., 436 U.S. 307 (1978); See v. City of Seattle, 387 U.S. 541 (1967). However, unlike searches of private homes, which generally must be conducted pursuant to a warrant in order to be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,6 legislative schemes authorizing warrantless administrative searches of commercial property do not necessarily violate the Fourth Amendment. See, e.g., United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. 311 (1972); Colonnade Catering Corp. v. United States, 397 U.S. 72 (1970). The greater latitude to conduct warrantless inspections of commercial property reflects the fact that the expectation of privacy that the owner of commercial property enjoys in such property differs significantly from the sanctity accorded an

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individual's home, and that this privacy interest may, in certain circumstances, be adequately protected by regulatory schemes authorizing warrantless inspections. United States v. Biswell, supra, at 316.

The interest of the owner of commercial property is not one in being free from any inspections. Congress has broad authority to regulate commercial enterprises engaged in or affecting interstate commerce, and an inspection program may in some cases be a necessary component of federal regulation. Rather, the Fourth Amendment protects the interest of the owner of property in being free from unreasonable intrusions onto his property by agents of the government. Inspections of commercial property may be unreasonable if they are not authorized by law or are unnecessary for the furtherance of federal interests. Colonnade Catering Corp. v. United States, supra, at 77. Similarly, warrantless inspections of commercial property may be constitutionally objectionable if their occurrence is so random, infrequent, or unpredictable that the owner, for all practical purposes, has no real expectation that his property will from time to time be inspected by government officials. Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc., supra, at 323.

Where Congress has authorized inspection but made no rules governing the procedures that inspectors must follow, the Fourth Amendment and its various restrictive rules apply.

Colonnade Corp. v. United States, supra, at 77. In such cases, a warrant may be necessary to protect the owner from the "unbridled discretion [of] executive and administrative officers," Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc., supra, at 323, by assuring him that "reasonable legislative or administrative standards for conducting an . . . inspection are satisfied with respect to a particular [establishment]." Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523, 538 (1967).

However, the assurance of regularity...

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