ON-Lion Letter

On behalf of a former Green Bay couple, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty sued the City of Green Bay in mid-July for violating their right to due process and for an illegal taking of property.

WILL filed a complaint in federal court alleging that the City of Green Bay, without notice or opportunity to object, entered Margaret and Steve Gerhard's property without a warrant and destroyed their natural garden.  Under the city’s "Noxious Weed Ordinance," officials were granted broad discretion to declare plants "unsightly" and order their immediate destruction.  While the ordinance prohibited numerous specific invasive or otherwise dangerous species as prohibited, it did not provide any standards to judge whether plants were "unsightly," leaving that determination solely to the subjective judgment of the city's "Weed Commissioner."

The Gerhards had spent nearly 20 years cultivating their garden, and it contained none of the noxious weeds cited in the ordinance.  Rather, it contained more than a thousand plants in dozens of varieties:  flowers, medicinal and culinary herbs, and spices.  But the Gerhards were given no opportunity to argue that their garden was not in violation of the Noxious Weed Ordinance before it was weed-whacked, ripped up, and destroyed with chemical herbicides.

"This is clearly a violation of the Gerhards' constitutional rights,” according to WILL associate counsel Tom Kamenick.  "The Fourth Amendment prohibits the government from entering onto and seizing your property without a warrant in all but the most emergency situations.  And the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the government from depriving you of your property without sufficient notice and a fair opportunity to be heard.  Green Bay's actions ignored those rights."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports WILL.

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