Local Minnesota governments send out officers, inspectors and investigators to conduct various procedures that help ensure its ordinances and codes are being adhered to in a community. However, these government officials have an obligation to themselves to adhere to federal laws that protect your right to privacy, for instance, or that protect you against discrimination or unfair treatment because of an identifying characteristic that places you in a protected category. If you have encountered problems with government officials over zoning issues or other code matters, you might have grounds for a lawsuit.
Suing the government or its officials over zoning issues is a complex area of law. As a plaintiff, you would have the task of proving that an inspection or investigation violated your liberties or personal rights. It is imperative to make sure that real estate laws allow you to file the type of lawsuit you are contemplating. There are several things to keep in mind that may help you determine your legal standing.
Immunity protects individual officers, investigators and inspectors
The phrase “qualified immunity” refers to a protection that certain government workers possess, so that no one can sue them regarding their duties. Such workers often patrol various buildings, complexes or residences to ensure that the structures in question are in compliance with government zoning or building codes and ordinances. However, if you believe that a government inspector, code officer or investigator violated a clearly established right, then you may still be able to file a legal claim in a civil court, despite qualified immunity protections.
In circumstances where you have determined that you cannot sue a particular government employee, you might still have grounds for filing a civil claim against the government agency that employed the individual. In either case, there are two primary issues that create just cause for suing the government or one of its officials over zoning issues.
Did a government official enter your home without permission?
Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you have protection against unlawful searches or seizures of items in your possession. Most people think of this in terms of a police officer searching a vehicle during a traffic stop or entering a home to conduct a search. However, this protection also encompasses your right to privacy in connection with government officials carrying out inspections or investigations regarding zoning issues.
There are exceptions to the rule that would enable an inspector or investigator or code officer to enter a building without permission. If you are the owner of a private residence, a government official conducting an inspection or investigation regarding zoning issues, codes or ordinances would typically need an administrative warrant to enter your home.
Do you believe the government targeted your community for inspection?
Perhaps you live in an apartment complex or trailer park where most of the residents happen to be of a similar ethnicity or race. It would be a personal rights violation for local government officials to target your community for inspections regarding possible code or ordinance violations. Such actions may constitute discrimination.
If you were to file a lawsuit, you must be able to prove that the government was choosing which homes to inspect based on the color of skin or ethnic background of the homeowners.
Support is available for those considering litigation
The idea of going up against a local government or one of its officials in court can be a bit unsettling. You can expect a defendant in such a case to be acting alongside experienced legal representation. The good news is that private citizens are entitled to the same type of guidance and support, which helps level proceedings and increases a plaintiff’s chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.