Real Estate & Property Law

'Garden of Eden' defense re overgrown lawn doesn't cut it, but pro se defendant wins on jurisdiction

Ken Conklin had what you might call a “Garden of Eden” defense to an overgrown-lawn case brought against him by the city of St. Petersburg, Fla.

Even faced with the threat of a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail, he just didn’t want to mow the waist-high weeds in his front lawn that served as an ecosystem for animals ranging from ladybugs and spiders to caterpillar cocoons, the Tampa Bay Times reports. (Conklin, the newspaper notes, first came to local attention concerning a turtle colony in his back yard, including Myrtle, a red-eared slider that gained fame for her ability to come when called.)

The first time around, the city won a round, and Conklin was fined $152 after a Pinellas County trial in September. His wife anted up the money, concerned that he would lose his driver’s license if she didn’t.

But, at trial in December over a second citation, Conklin resorted to a different tactic. Previously, the city had agreed that he would have 90 days to register his yard as “Florida-friendly,” yet the citation was issued long before that period expired. The judge nodded and dismissed the case, the newspaper recounts.

Although the weeds are growing again in Conklin’s front yard and have reached a noteworthy height in back, the city’s legal department has opted not to pursue a third citation sent in by code enforcement.

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