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Case Basics
Docket No. 
(By invitation of the Court, argued the cause as amicus curiae in support of the judgment below)
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
Facts of the Case 

In 1981, officials at a hospital, including Executive Director Dr. Dennis O'Connor, suspected improprieties in Dr. Ortega's management of a residency program. The officials conducted an investigation of Ortega, which included multiple searches of his office and seizure of a number of items. The items were later used in proceedings before the California State Personnel Board to impeach the credibility of witnesses that testified on Dr. Ortega's behalf.


Did the supervisor's search of the office violate Dr. Ortega's "reasonable expectation of privacy" guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment?

Decision: 5 votes for O'Connor, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 4: Fourth Amendment

In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that the search did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The Court held that "the realities of the workplace" made some expectations of privacy among public employees unreasonable when the intrusion was by a supervisor rather than a law enforcement official. Work- related searches, the Court found, were "merely incident to the primary business of the agency," and a warrant requirement would "seriously disrupt the routine conduct of business." The Court thus held that a standard of "reasonableness" was sufficient for work-related intrusions by public employers.

Cite this Page
O'CONNOR v. ORTEGA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 29 July 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1986/1986_85_530>.
O'CONNOR v. ORTEGA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1986/1986_85_530 (last visited July 29, 2015).
"O'CONNOR v. ORTEGA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed July 29, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1986/1986_85_530.