Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation filed a second lawsuit on behalf of Michigan clients who are in trouble with the township of Canton for clearing a 16-acred lot—their own land—of brush, dead trees and undergrowth so they could start a Christmas tree farm.
The township said they violated a tree ordinance and initially sought to fine Gary and Matt Percy more than $700,000. The town eventually dropped it to $450,000, but still more than the entire property is worth.
But since challenging that ordinance in court—with TPPF’s help—the Percy brothers have been targeted by the township for harassment.
“Usually when you file a civil rights lawsuit, these sorts of bully tactics stop,” says TPPF’s Chance Weldon. “Here, the Township doubled down and started sending various code enforcement officers to the Percys other businesses, just to hassle the brothers.”
In the latest incident, the township claims that three buildings at the brothers’ trucking business, including its headquarters—all more than 25 years old—never received the proper certificates of occupancy, and cannot be used.
The trucking company employs 700 workers; the buildings have been in constant use, with all the right permits and inspections, for a quarter of a century.
Weldon says it’s clearly retaliation for the Percy brothers’ challenge of the Canton tree ordinance.
“The right to criticize government and the right to file constitutional claims against the government form the very core of the First Amendment’s protections of the freedom of speech and the right to petition,” the second lawsuit reads. “Defendants may not attempt to punish plaintiffs for seeking to exercise and defend their core constitutional rights. Relief from this Court is necessary to prevent this pattern and practice of harassment from continuing.”
Filing under Title 42, Section 1983 of the United States Code (42 U.S.C. 1983), the new lawsuit seeks to stop the harassment so the initial case can proceed—and the brothers can operate their businesses without interference.