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Ga. Supreme Court: Ordinance Requiring Lawncare Does Not Equal Slavery

Grass Via the Meeting the Sin Laws blog, I learned of a woman named Linda Gasses who was convicted and fined $150 under a local ordinance by the city of Riverdale, Ga., for refusing to cut her grass. Rather than break out the lawn mower, however, Gasses elected to take her version of a "you can't make me" defense all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court.

MTSL reports that after her first appeal was dismissed on procedural grounds, Gasses appealed a second time. She argued, among other things, that the ordinance requiring her to cut her grass imposed "involuntary servitude" upon her in violation of the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as the Georgia Constitution.

The Georgia Supreme Court, however, did not agree that the ordinance requiring citizens to mow their grass effectively turned the residents of Riverdale into slaves. The court held in an opinion issued Oct. 4, 2010 that

"The prohibition against involuntary servitude does not prevent the State or Federal Governments from compelling their citizens, by threat of criminal sanction, to perform certain civic duties.” U.S. v. Kozminski, 487 US 931, 944 (108 SC 2751, 101 LE2d 788 (1988). Key examples of such civic duties are jury service, military service, and roadwork. Id. A municipal ordinance requiring a citizen to maintain grass, weeds, and vegetation for the welfare of the community is not constitutionally prohibited involuntary servitude. See Rowe v. City of Elyria, 38 Fed. Appx. 277, 283 (6th Cir. 2002).

If anyone in Riverdale can let me know if Gasses' lawn has been mowed yet, please do so. I'm betting it has not been -- there's still the U.S. Supreme Court to appeal to, right?

Posted by Bruce Carton on October 14, 2010 at 01:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)


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