OBX Property Owners Sue Dare County for Sweeping Coronavirus Blockade of Their Houses

DARE COUNTY – Dare County was one of the first to issue a ‘Stay Out’ order, telling all non-residents they were not welcome to visit and deployin driver checkpoints at key choke points to keep those lacking a Dare County address on their license out. Except, many people, despite not having a Dare County address on their license, happen to own property in the county. Property they now cannot access because of the shortsighted order.

Now several of them are suing.

“Six Outer Banks property owners have filed a federal lawsuit against Dare County claiming their constitutional rights have been violated by an emergency order preventing access to their homes.

The suit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for Eastern North Carolina, was brought by John P. Bailey, Paul W. Michael Jr., his wife Sheryl S. Michael, E. Thompson Brown, Todd A. Edgar and his wife Babette S. Edgar.

The Michaels and Brown, who live in Virginia, use their properties in Dare County as second homes, while Bailey and the Edgars use their homes as rentals. Bailey lives in South Carolina and the Edgars in Maryland.

“This action is brought by plaintiffs who seek to protect their right to travel, to engage in a common calling or occupation, and to obtain medical treatment as is guaranteed to them as citizens of the United States” by the U.S. Constitution, the suit reads.

The plaintiffs in the suit are not legal residents of North Carolina, and are therefore prohibited from accessing their property.

Raleigh attorney S.C. Kitchen, who is representing the property owners, said the plaintiffs aren’t questioning any of the other coronavirus restrictions in place in Dare County, and they are not seeking monetary damages.

“They simply want to get to the property they own and pay for,” he said in a phone interview.

The lawsuit contends that the prohibition on the entry of out-of-state property owners violates the U.S. Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause, which says citizens of each state are entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in every state.

“You are a citizen of the United States,” Kitchen said.

In addition to the constitutional violation, the suit claims Dare County officials amended the local state of emergency declaration by resolution rather than by ordinance, as required by state law. Therefore, the suit contends the move to prohibit property owners was enacted without legal authority.

The lawsuit asks the court to immediately allow access to all property owners. […]”

Orders such as Dare County’s blockade and others like it are some of the ugliest parts of the pandemic panic. The ease with which governing bodies have moved to violate individuals rights in the name of collective safety is alarming, not least of which because now that it has transpired, it will be that much easier to commit during the net crisis, whatever it may be.

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Here’s to hoping the courts uphold the constitution and allow these citizens to access their property. Read the full complaint here.

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