What a pain in the grass!
The city of Dunedin moved to foreclose on resident Jim Ficken’s home after Ficken racked up more than $29,000 in fines because his grass exceeded the 10 inches the city allows.
Ficken, 69, is fighting back, suing the city over what he and his attorneys with the Institute for Justice call abusive and excessive fines.
Ficken and his attorneys told FOX13 he amassed the fines during a 57-day period last summer while he was out of town settling his late mother’s estate. They said Ficken hired a friend to cut the grass during that time, but the friend passed away unexpectedly. The yard is now up to city code, they said.
”The grass did what grass does, and a code inspector saw it was more than the 10 inches the city allowed, and Jim was officially on the hook,” said Andrew Ward, one of Ficken’s attorneys.
Ficken, who is retired and lives on a fixed income, was fined $500 per day, totaling nearly $30,000. He claims he wasn’t aware of the fines until they were already out of control.
The city on Tuesday began moving to foreclose on Ficken’s house.
”We're arguing in our lawsuit that limitless fines are, in fact, unconstitutional,” said Ari Bargil, another of Ficken’s attorneys.
“In February, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled the 8th Amendment prohibits cities from imposing excessive fines,” Ward said.
Ficken and his legal team said they will take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if that’s what it takes.
“It is outrageous…being fined this amount for being tardy cutting your grass,” Ficken said.
"Mr. Ficken was cited for repeat violations on his rental property," the city said in a statement to FOX13 News. "On Tuesday, May 7, 2019 the City of Dunedin Code Enforcement Board authorized the City Attorney’s office to file foreclosure actions after resolution of the case could not be agreed upon with Mr. Ficken. The City Attorney’s office has not had an opportunity to review litigation filed by Mr. Ficken and as such has no comment at this juncture."