Donovan v. Lone Steer, Inc.

RESPONDENT: Lone Steer, Inc.
LOCATION: Clifford Residence

DOCKET NO.: 82-1684
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)

CITATION: 464 US 408 (1984)
ARGUED: Nov 29, 1983
DECIDED: Jan 17, 1984

Alan I. Horowitz - on behalf of the Appellants
Richard G. Peterson - on behalf of Appellee

Facts of the case

Donovan v. Lone Steer, Inc. is the case study on direct appeal, which is centered around the decision made by District Court in regard to the investigative provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In particular, the 4th Amendment forbids to use the administrative subpoena for investigation purposes, requiring a special search warrant to be received to analyze any possible formal paper.

On January 6, 1982, the Wage-Hour compliance officer, Al Godes, gave a call to the Appellee, a restaurant-motel, situated in North Dakota. He was planning an inspection the following day and thus wanted to request the information regarding the wage, hours, and other employment-related facts for the upcoming investigation. As soon as the manager of the motel indicated that the time was not suitable for them, the officer decided to reschedule his inquiry for the next week. Appellee also informed that they would not allow the investigation to happen until they see a detailed description of nature and the extent of the analysis. The government refused to provide any reasons for their investigation and brought up the general aspects of the fair labor standards inquiry. In return, they asked the motel whether they would allow the inspection in order not to send an administrative subpoena.

Appellee replied that they would not give any permission and they were given the subpoena duces tecum asking for the specific payment details at Department of Labor's Wage-Hour Offices in North Dakota. Appellee's counsel also indicated that they will not comply with the subpoena since it was unlawful under Barlow's and there were no subpoena documents released. Based on the case brief, the District Court stated that even though the Secretary had followed the principles of FLSA provisions in publishing the subpoena, the way in which it was enforced would strictly contravene the 4th Amendment. Such conclusion was reinforced by the fact that the Secretary had not received any judicial warrant in advance, as needed.


Media for Donovan v. Lone Steer, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 29, 1983 in Donovan v. Lone Steer, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Horowitz, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Alan I. Horowitz:

Thank you Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case is here on direct appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1252 from the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota.

Under review is the District Court's decision holding unconstitutional the investigative provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, specifically the Court's holding that the Fourth Amendment prohibits the use of an administrative subpoena for the inspection of documents and rather requires that a search warrant be obtained before any documents may be examined.

Because some of the briefs here have generated some confusion about the issue presented I think it would be useful to summarize briefly the background of this litigation.

On January 6, 1982 Al Godes, the Wage Hour compliance officer, telephoned Appellee, a restaurant-motel, located in Steele, North Dakota to schedule an inspection for the following day and to ask that certain wage and payroll records be made available for inspection at that time.

When Appellee's manager informed Godes that the time was not convenient he rescheduled the inspection for the following week.

In the interim Appellee's counsel wrote to Mr. Godes stating that Appellee would not consider the request for an inspection until it was informed of either the nature of the complaint that triggered the investigation or the scope of the investigation.

The government responded with a letter outlining the general scope of a fair labor standards investigation and declining to give the reason for this particular investigation.

In this letter the government rescheduled the inspection for two weeks hence.

The letter also requested Appellee to inform the government whether it would decline to permit the inspection so that an administrative subpoena could be obtained in that event.

Appellee responded that permission would be refused under the authority of Marshall v. Barlow's and thereafter Appellee was served with a subpoena duces tecum requiring production of specified payroll records at the Department of Labor's Wage Hour Offices in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Appellee's counsel informed the Department of Labor that it would not comply with the subpoena on the ground that it was invalid under Barlow's, and to date it has not produced the subpoena documents.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Horowitz, do the Appellees suggest that maybe this was really an attempt by the government to get unauthorized entry into the premises?

Would you comment on that?

Alan I. Horowitz:

I just do not think there is any support for that in the record.

All we know is that they phoned and... The government phoned and said that it wanted to conduct an inspection the next day.

Appellee obviously did not feel compelled to comply with this.

It simply first stated that it wasn't convenient and then later declined to permit the government to enter.

In the brief--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

The question is not really before us here, of course, but do you think the statutory authority under the Act to enter and inspect the premises is possibly invalid under Barlow's?

Alan I. Horowitz:

--Well, it has never come up because the general practice of the Labor Department is not to conduct these entries without consent so they did not try to do it here.

They have never tried to do it.

If they did--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Do you think it is possibly invalid?

Alan I. Horowitz:

--If they did I think unlike this case Barlow's would be quite relevant and there would be a serious question under Barlow's, but the question would be whether Barlow's was distinguishable or not.

It might be difficult to distinguish.

Barlow's itself was careful to confine itself to the OSHA context so arguably it might be distinguishable, but it would certainly be a close case.

Well, did the subpoena here actually request entry?

Alan I. Horowitz: