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O'Connor v. Ortega - Significance, Search And Seizure Without Authorization, What Is The Right To Privacy In The Workplace?

office court hospital petitioner


Dennis M. O'Connor


Mango J. Ortega

Petitioner's Claim

Hospital officials of Napa State Hospital had reasonable cause to enter and search an employee's private office. Officials were attempting to secure any state property in Mango J. Ortega's office while he was being investigated for mismanagement of his department and for sexual harassment charges. This search did not violate the employee's Fourth Amendment rights.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Jeffrey T. Miller

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Joel I. Klein

Justices for the Court

Sandra Day O'Connor (writing for the Court), Lewis F. Powell, Jr., William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting

Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, John Paul Stevens


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

31 March 1987


The Court held that the search of Ortega's office by Hospital officials did not violate Ortega's Fourth Amendment right to privacy. The realities of the public workplace held to the standard that "reasonableness" was just cause for intrusion in an office. The case was remanded to the lower courts for further review and action.

Related Cases

  • Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).
  • United States v. U.S. District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972).
  • Illinois v. Lafayette, 462 U.S. 640 (1983).
  • United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696 (1983).
  • New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985).
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