Landlords Win Case Against Minneapolis and St. Paul Over First Amendment Restricting Ordinances

The ordinance in question required landlords to provide voter-registration information to new tenants. Failure to comply with the ordinance could result in a fine, and even the loss of a landlord’s rental license. 

Erick Kaardal

The federal district court for the district of Minnesota just ruled in favor of the Minnesota Voters Alliance and landlords (MVA, or the plaintiffs) in their case against the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The court ruled completely in favor of MVA, and said that the ordinance passed by the cities was “facially unconstitutionally,” meaning clearly unconstitutional after just an initial look. 

The ordinance in question required landlords to provide voter-registration information to new tenants. Failure to comply with the ordinance could result in a fine, and even the loss of a landlord’s rental license. 

MVA, represented by attorney Erick Kaardal, argued that such a requirement was compelled speech, which violates the First Amendment. The court agreed with the plaintiffs, finding that the material landlords were being required—under penalty of law—to hand out was indeed government speech. 

Because this material was government speech, the court applied a strict scrutiny test, meaning that Minneapolis and St. Paul had a high bar to overcome to prove their actions were well-crafted and absolutely necessary. U.S. District Court Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright granted summary judgment to Kaardal and MVA, ruling that Minneapolis and St. Paul clearly did not overcome this high bar.  

To read Judge Wright’s ruling, click here.

Some contend that there is a general feeling of indifference toward landlords and business owners in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Not only did this ordinance impose a cost on landlords, but this was potentially meant to drive turnout in Democrat-leaning areas at the expense of landlord rights.

Minneapolis passed its ordinance in 2016, an election year. St. Paul followed suit in 2018, also an election year.

Minneapolis and St. Paul “have to do better than this by their landlords… it’s embarrassing,” said Erick Kaardal, the attorney for MVA. It is unclear whether or not Minneapolis and St. Paul will appeal the ruling, though MVA has urged them not to.

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