The city of Dunedin, Florida wants to foreclose on the home of Jim Ficken because he owes $29,000 in fines over his tall grass.
Ficken was out of town due to his mother passing.He was settling her estate, so he hired a lawn guy to care for his yard.
The lawn guy ended up passing away so Ficken’s lawn was left uncut over an eight week period.The city fined him $500 a day, with no notice.
He was unaware that he was racking up the daily fines, but after being informed by a city code inspector of his violation, he cut his grass within two days.
Ficken was cited in 2015 for overly all grass so the city declared him a “repeat violator”.This classification doubled his daily fine from $250 to $500 and relieved the Code Enforcement Board of providing him notice.
Ficken says he can’t afford the fines so the city wants his home in order to settle up.
The Institute for Justice (IJ), is suing the city to prevent it from taking Ficken’s home. IJ Attorney Ari Bargil says “Nobody should lose their house for having tall grass.”
The suit points out that "municipal salaries and expenses are paid with revenue collected from fines," giving officials motive to act unreasonably in such cases as grass taller than legally permitted.According to the Tampa Bay Tribune, “Dunedin has cracked down on code violations in recent years. According to an analysis in Ficken’s lawsuit, the city collected almost $1.3 million in code enforcement violations in 2018 — up from $34,000 in 2007.”
Ficken is suing to prevent the city from stealing his house. Earlier this year in the case of Timbs v. Indiana, the Supreme Court showed a willingness to give teeth to the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on excessive fines, even when not involving direct federal action.