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Ricketts v. Village of Miami Shores

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

November 1, 2017

Hermine Ricketts and Laurence Carroll, Appellants,
v.
Village of Miami Shores, Florida, et al., Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Monica Gordo, Judge. Lower Tribunal No. 13-36012

          Institute for Justice and Ari Bargil and Allison Daniel and Michael Bindas (Bellevue, WA), for appellants.

          Genovese Joblove & Battista and Richard Sarafan and Nina Greene, for appellees.

          Before ROTHENBERG, C.J., and SALTER and LUCK, JJ.

          SALTER, J.

         As the initial brief in this appeal frames the issue:

Miami Shores homeowners may have virtually anything in their front yard. They may decorate with garden gnomes, pink flamingos and trolls. They may park their boats and jet skis. And they are free to grow whatever trees, flowers, shrubs, grasses, fruits and berries they desire. There is, however, one thing forbidden:
Vegetables.
In Miami Shores, maintaining a vegetable garden in your own front yard is illegal and punishable by fines of $50 per day. But Americans have been growing vegetables on their property since precolonial times. This appeal seeks to vindicate the constitutional rights of Floridians to continue to do so today.
Appellants, Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll ("Hermine and Tom"), a married Miami Shores couple in their 60s, designed and maintained a vegetable garden, peacefully and without incident, in the front yard of their modest Miami Shores home for over 17 years. After nearly two decades without a complaint (but quite a few compliments), they were abruptly ordered to stop. Facing the threat of fines of $50 per day, Hermine and Tom destroyed their beloved garden and, along with it, uprooted a significant source of both material sustenance and personal joy. Today, where flowers and colorful plants once abounded, there sits a decidedly less vibrant (but fully compliant) patch of land. All of this, according to Miami Shores, in the name of aesthetics.
Hermine and Tom desire to once again grow vegetables for their own consumption, methodically and attractively as before, in their own front yard. But the ordinance at issue in this case prohibits this historically recognized, productive use of property. And despite Miami Shores' purported interest in promoting aesthetics, the ordinance bans only vegetable gardens-thus allowing virtually any other type of landscape, regardless of how it looks. As a result, Hermine and Tom filed this lawsuit, challenging the ban on front-yard vegetable gardens as a violation of the Florida Constitution's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.
* * * *
Hermine and Tom also challenged the ban on front-yard vegetable gardens as a violation of two of their fundamental rights under the Florida Constitution-the right to acquire, possess and protect property and the right of privacy.[1]

         Though these claims seem compelling, the trial court's well-reasoned, ten-page final order rejecting the appellants' claims correctly acknowledged the difficult procedural posture confronting the appellants and dutifully ...


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