The City of Dunedin imposes excessive fines for minor violations such as grass growing to higher than 10 inches. The maximum daily fine is $250 for a non-repeat violator, and $500 for a repeat violator. If a homeowner is deemed a repeat violator, fines begin to accrue immediately; the City does not afford the homeowner notice or a hearing before the City of Dunedin Code Enforcement Board. A homeowner unable to pay faces a lien on their property, and if they are unable to pay the lien, the City forecloses. The City does not consider the homeowner’s ability to pay, nor does it consider requests for fine reconsideration. Plaintiffs allege that such practices violate the Due Process and Excessive Fines Clauses of both the U.S. and Florida Constitutions.
Plaintiff James Ficken had grass over ten inches for about eight weeks during the summer of 2018 while he was out of town settling his mother’s estate. Without warning, he was hit with daily fines totaling $29,000. As a result of his inability to pay the $29,000 in fines, the City placed two liens on his property. Mr. Ficken requested a rehearing or reconsideration of the fines, but his request was rejected without explanation. He now faces imminent foreclosure because he does not have the money to satisfy the liens.
On May 17, 2019, the case was removed from the 6th Judicial Circuit in and for Pinellas County, Florida to the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida.
Pending before the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida.