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City Demands $6,000 from Woman over Illegal Chickens

Ramona Morales, a landlord in Indio, California, was cited $225 because one of her tenants was raising chickens in the backyard of a home, in violation of city ordinance.

Such citations are not terribly unusual. The surprise came later. A private firm the city had hired to handle code enforcement violations billed her for thousands of dollars for the cost of her own prosecution. She ended up paying nearly $6,000.

This scheme to cash in on relatively minor code enforcement issues was investigated and exposed by Desert Sun reporter Brett Kelman last November. This week the property-rights-protecting lawyers of the Institute for Justice waded into the fight. On Tuesday they filed a class action suit against Indio, the nearby city of Coachella, and the law firm Silver & Wright. Their aim: to stop this oppressively expensive code enforcement racket.

Here’s how this scheme works. In these towns, when code


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