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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Court Rejects Constitutional Challenge to City's Weed Ordinance

The City of Chicago sells vacant lots that it deems of "minimal value" to residents for $1 per lot. One of those lots was sold to Tucker, who intended to turn it into a community garden. Some time after she purchased the lot, the City inspected her property under the City's weed ordinance which prohibits the average height of weeds to exceed 10 inches in height. Six months later, the City served her with a citation for the condition that it found on the property six months prior. She appeared at an administrative hearing to contest the citation, claiming that the City failed to present evidence of the "average height" of the weeds. The administrative judge rejected that argument, and imposed a fine of $640.

Subsequently, Tucker filed a class action claim against the City claiming that the City's weed ordinance violated her civil rights because it did not provide a "post deprivation" hearing or other rights and because the City's delay in citing her violated her due process rights.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Tucker's arguments, and upheld the City's weed ordinance. First, the Court noted that Tucker was provided with a hearing before the administrative judge where she could contest the citation. Second, the Court held that there is no due process right to an immediate "notice-on-demand" of an ordinance violation. Finally, the Court rejected Tucker's argument that the City misinterpreted its own ordinance, finding no due process right violation when a City disagrees with an individual's legal interpretation of a City ordinance. In sum, the City rejected Tucker's constitutional challenges to the City's process and weed ordinance, holding that the proper process to challenge a municipal citation is through the state courts. Tucker v. City of Chicago (7th Cir. 10/19/2018)


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