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Renovate Your House, Pay For Street Improvements.

Linda Cameron is a 70 year old woman living in the town of Richland, Washington. In 1977, Linda and her husband Gary purchased a modest home of less than 1200 square feet. The home has one bedroom, one bath, a kitchen, a living room,and two smaller rooms. In 2012, Gary passed away due to cancer. In 2018, Linda decided that she would use some of the money from her husband’s insurance policy to do what the couple had planned on doing – renovating the home.

The home, valued at $136,980 has obvious sentimental value to Linda, and besides, she likes the neighborhood and her neighbors. Therefore, moving was an option she considered, but ultimately rejected.

The renovation would include the tearing down of a enclosed porch and a carport and building an addition which would have a second bedroom, a second bathroom, a living area, and a garage.

Linda contacted a company by the name of AJ Construction and Development, LLC to do the design work and the construction. The costs of the renovation would be approximately $143,000 plus an additional $12,000 in taxes.

With the design approved by Linda, the builders sought the necessary permits to do the renovation.

The City of Richland denied the application unless Linda paid to upgrade the city street in front of her property – an expense that would cost an estimated additional $60,000.

The Institute for Justice has taken Linda’s case and is suing the City of Richland.
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Code Enforcement Fines Leads To Foreclosure Of Florida Home.

Jim Ficken is a 69 year old man living (at least for the time being) in the City of Dunedin, which is on the west coast of Florida.

In May of 2015, Ficken was away from his Dunedin home tending to his sick mother in South Carolina. While he was away, City code enforcement officers cited Ficken for having grass that was too long. Ficken was not fined for the long grass, and when he returned home, he cut the grass. However, even though he corrected the issue, if during the next 5 years he received another citation, he would be considered a “repeat offended” which allowed the City to double any fines.

Ficken’s mother died in 2016, and in 2018 Ficken went to South Carolina to handle his mother’s estate, which included the sale of her condominium. In his absence, Ficken hired friend and handyman Russ Kellum.

Unbeknownst to Ficken while he was in South Carolina, Kellum died.

The grass height again became an issue.
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Big Victory on the Civil Forfeiture Front By The Institute For Justice.

The Institute for Justice scored a big victory in a Federal Court in Albuquerque, New Mexico ruled that civil forfeiture is unConstitutional.

While the ruling is not binding in all states, it does set up a precedent that others can argue in other jurisdictions.

Federal Judge James O. Browning found Albuquerque’s civil forfeiture program unconstitutional because the city’s ordinance violates the basic rule that citizens are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Albuquerque places the burden on property owners to prove their own innocence. Independent of that, he also struck down the law because

funds raised by the program are used to fund the program’s budget, which gives law enforcement officials an incentive to police for profit, rather than justice. He wrote, “the City of Albuquerque has an unconstitutional institutional incentive to prosecute forfeiture cases, because, in practice, the forfeiture program sets its own budget and can spend, without meaningful oversight, all of the excess funds it raises from previous years.”

“Civil forfeiture” is when private property is seized by police and the government. While we have no issues with the government seizing profits and property from illegal enterprises, too many times the property is seized prior to any verdict of guilt against the property owner. That was the case when the City of Albuquerque seized the car of Arlene Harjo’s car when her son was arrested for driving under the influence.
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Civil Forfeiture Heads To The Supreme Court.

In 2013, Tyson Timbs was arrested and later convicted of selling a small amount of drugs for $225 to an undercover police officer. At the time, Timbs was addicted to opiods which is never a good thing. Timbs’ crime carried a maximum penalty of $10,000 and the trial court sentenced Timbs to get help with his addiction, one year in home detention, and five years probation.

After his conviction, the State of Indiana sought to seize Timbs’ brand new Land Rover LR2, a vehicle worth around $40,000. Timbs had purchased the vehicle with the proceeds of his father’s life insurance policy and it was Timbs only vehicle.

Stop and think about that for a moment. For a crime that carried a maximum penalty of $10,000, the State of Indiana wanted to seize a vehicle worth $40,000 or four times the amount of the maximum fine.

Nice work if you can get it.

The trial court rejected the seizure on the basis of the Eight Amendment to the US Constitution which reads:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

This is a no brainer. There is no way that the State can justify the seizure of the vehicle and be within the Constitution. It makes absolutely no sense.

Unless you are the Indiana Supreme Court.
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Skim Milk Revisited.

Stop us if you heard this one before: government agency requires dairy to label milk from a cow as an “imitation dairy product.”

If you have been paying attention and following this blog for a little bit, you may remember that in 2016 we covered the strange case of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services (DACS) outlawed a farm that skimed the fat off of their milk creating “skim milk” from labeling the milk as “skim milk” because the DACS was following federal guidelines that say that if a creamery removes the fat from milk, it must also add vitamin A and D back into the milk. It is somewhat important to note that the DACS was following Federal Department of Agriculture guidelines on what could be called “skim milk.” The DACS did not have to follow those guidelines, but chose to do so.

For those creameries that are advertising their products to be “100% natural,” the labeling rule presents a problem in that the creamery cannot add the vitamins and claim to be “100% natural” (and they don’t want to add the vitamins) or their natural milk product had to be labeled as an “imitation milk product” under the law.

The folks at the Institute for Justice took up the case and after being denied by a local district court, they won on appeal to the Eleventh Circuit.

However, the ruling only applied to the State of Florida which brings us to the case of the South Mountain Creamery, a farm in western Maryland.

South Mountain has been legally selling its products in Maryland (which doesn’t have the ridiculous labeling requirements) and wanted to expand their market into Pennsylvania. Upon writing Pennsylvania officials, South Mountain was told that Pennsylvania labeling law is the same as the Maryland law but there was a problem.

Because the milk would be crossing state lines the milk would have to comply with federal labeling standards – the ones that require the natural skim milk to be labeled as “imitation milk” or “imitation dairy product.”

The owner of South Mountain Creamery, Randy Sowers, is taking the FDA to court and like the farm in Florida, is being represented by the Institute for Justice.

Now Randy is taking steps to stop the FDA’s ban of honest labels. He is suing the FDA in federal court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania for violating his constitutional right to free speech.

This means, of course, that federal tax dollars will be used to defend a non-nonsensical rule that was made by an unelected official in some back room years ago.
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You Didn’t Grow That.

You-Didn't-Grow-That-ROH

Hermine Rickets and her husband, Tom Carroll seem like nice people who simply want to grow vegetables.

For nearly 20 years, the couple did just that in the front yard of their home in Miami Shores Village, Florida, a suburb of Miami, Florida.

How successful was the garden?

During the garden’s salad days, Carroll and Ricketts cultivated nearly 100 different types of vegetables, fruits, berries, herbs, and flowers. When the plot was in full production, “80 percent of my meals could come from the garden,” Ricketts says. Bountiful harvests meant that the couple could share the fruits—and vegetables—of their labor with family and friends.

It does not matter one iota, but the couple’s desire to garden in their front yard was driven by several factors. First, they wanted to enjoy fruits and vegetables where they controlled the fertilizers and pesticides. Secondly, as their home faces south, a garden in the front was far more bountiful than one planted in the relative shade of the back yard.

As we said, their reasoning for the garden doesn’t matter. It is their property and as long as they aren’t harming anyone, they should be able to grow veggies on their property wherever they want.

The “harm issue” leads to the question “was there harm in the garden?” Short answer: nope.

[Tom Carroll] said he had never gotten a complaint from a neighbor in all the years he tended the garden, which grew some 75 varieties of vegetables.

In review, we have private property, people growing veggies and fruits, and no harm to any neighbors.

Who would object to that?

The Village Council of Miami Shores, that’s who.
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….The Government It Deserves.

Pagedale-Institute-for-Justice-ROH
“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.” (“Every country has the government it deserves.”) – Joseph de Maistre<

Pagedale, MO is a small town of 3,300 mostly black residents in the suburbs of St. Louis. When a law was changed that reduce the amount of money (12.5%) municipalities keep from traffic fines, the town started to issue code violations as a means to increase revenue.

How many violations you ask?

According to research by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the city has handed out more than 2,000 code citations in the past year, enough to give nearly two tickets to every single household in the city of 3,300.

It is the type of violations that make one wonder what going on:

Pagedale residents are prohibited from having a basketball hoop or wading pool in front of their house.
They may not have a hedge above three feet high.
They cannot have a dish antenna on the front of their house.
Pedestrians cannot walk on the roadway if there is a sidewalk, and if there is not a sidewalk, they must walk on the left side of the roadway.
They must walk on the right side of crosswalks.
Pagedale residents may not have dead vegetation on their property.
They may not have fallen trees, cut shrubs, overgrown vegetation, or weeds more than seven inches in height.
They may not conduct a barbeque in their front yard except on national holidays and they cannot have more than two people gathered around it and they cannot have alcoholic beverages visible within 150 feet of the grill.
Pagedale’s children cannot wear pants below the waist in public or play on the residential streets in front of their homes.
Cars must be within 500 feet of a lamp or source of illumination during nighttime hours.
Windows in houses facing the street must have drapes or blinds “which are neatly hung, in a presentable appearance, properly maintained and in a state of good repair.”
All doors or windows opening to the outside must have screens.

Who would have ever thought that standing around a barbeque grill in your own yard with an adult beverage in your hand would be something for which you can be cited. That’s plain crazy.

In addition, foundations must be painted. Fences must be stained or painted. People have been cited for having drapes that do not match.

Why?

Follow the money.
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Licensed Dentist Attacked For Charging Too Little.

According to our friends at the Institute for Justice, Arkansas orthodontist Dr. Ben Burris has run afoul of the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners for not charging enough.

Burris has what can be considered a highly successful practice with 10 locations throughout the state of Arkansas. In addition, in 2008, Burns founded “Smile for a Lifetime Foundation.”

In 2008, Ben created Smile for a Lifetime Foundation to provide Orthodontic Scholarships for those in desperate need of braces who could not otherwise afford them. S4L.org is now the largest provider of pro bono orthodontic care in North America with almost 150 chapters in the US and Canada. S4L currently gives away over $6,000,000.00 dollars in Orthodontic Scholarships annually and continues to grow thanks to the generosity and dedication of fellow orthodontists.

So what has Burris done that has him in hot water?

In 2013 Dr. Ben Burris ran afoul of Arkansas’ law when he started offering low-cost teeth cleanings at his orthodontic offices. Ben’s practice Braces By Burris has 11 offices around the state. In part because of his success Ben feels a strong need to give back to the community so he started offering simple teeth cleanings for $99 for adults and $69 for kids, a fraction of what other dentists charge for the same service. He saw the program as a great way to expand access to care for Arkansans.

Within weeks, Ben was told by the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners that he was breaking the law and that his license would be revoked if he continued offering the cleanings. Arkansas prohibits licensed dental specialists like orthodontists from doing work outside of their specialty even though they are qualified to practice general dentistry.

The Institute for Justice issued a press release stating, in part:
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