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Convicted Criminal Chickenkeeper

By RaZ, May 2, 2013 | Updated: May 21, 2014 | | |
  1. RaZ
    CONVICTED CRIMINAL CHICKEN KEEPER
    How I Became an Outlaw

    Randy Zeilinger


    My story as follows represents the legal events that have taken place over the past year and a half. The tale is actually longer in duration than that.
    BACKGROUND.
    I live in Garden City, Michigan. A small city of some 20,000 – 25,000 people (2010 Census data) in Wayne County. This municipality was founded back in 1832 as described by the official city website http://www.gardencitymi.org/2010department.asp?p=profile.
    “Dating back to 1832, when the first settlers came from Ireland, Mr. John Lathers received a deed signed by Andrew Jackson for 160 acres of land that is now bound by Ford Road, Harrison and Marquette. The original developers of our city pictured it as an independent community containing enough industry to support its citizens. They subdivided large lots, in many cases a full acre, to provide residents ample space for small-scale farming. They patterned the town after the "Garden City" concept that became popular in England during the 19th Century. In 1927, the area was incorporated into a village with an estimated of 900 and an area of 3,600 acres. In December 1933, the big step was taken to incorporate Garden City into a city, having an area of 5.8 miles with a population of 2,500. A charter adopted that year provided for a Mayor-Council non-partisan form of Government. November 1975 saw the installation of a City Manager to join with the existing government. Today, the City has a population of just under 28,000 and is the 42nd largest city in Michigan.
    The above was quoted verbatim as a cut and paste from the website. The number of population has fallen dramatically since 2000 census.

    Given its close proximity to Detroit and the car companies there, Garden City became a city of working, middle-class citizens. Garden City can also boast as being the home of the first Little Cesar’s Pizza Parlor and the first K-Mart.
    All in all, Garden City is a great place to raise a family and we see many cases of successional generations raising their families in the same home as their parents. I grew up in this city.

    NOT SO RECENT EVENTS
    I purchased my home in 2000. I started moving in around March of the same year. I moved my bee hives at the same time and was immediately confronted by a neighbor who called the police. The attending officer said that bees were OK if I kept them in my own yard. In hind sight, I should have noted the complaint and resulting dialog. However, I thought that I was within my rights based on the Michigan state law, often referred to as the “Right to Farm Act”. http://legislature.mi.gov/documents/mcl/pdf/mcl-Act-93-of-1981.pdf In fact, I was (am) covered by this law.
    Over the next ten years or so, this same neighbor lodged numerous complaints against me. City officials recognized that these complaints were baseless in nature and merely a case of “everyone has one of THOSE neighbors”. That neighbor is known as CS, remember these initials.

    MORE RECENT EVENTS
    In early 2009, I began researching the plausibility of keeping ducks and chickens as a natural pest control method in lieu of using chemical pesticides. Thorough research indicated that I was legally entitled to keep poultry. Provided that I had a commercial operation to do so. That provision was met by selling eggs and composted manure provided by the chickens. I also met the federal guidelines as a farm operation as established by the USDA.
    After nearly a year of keeping poultry, I had a falling out with a different neighbor (CC) over the ducks. At the time, I decided to re-home the ducks and all was well with the neighbors.
    Now in 2012, the same neighbor (CC) decided that she didn’t like my chickens and insisted that I get rid of them. Her premise was that I never asked her permission to have chickens in my own private yard. She also made other demands of what I could or could not have within my own yard. Her reasoning was that they had lived here longer than I had and that I needed neighbor permission to take care of my own property and the things that were there. For example, my koi and frog pond was not to her liking. But a particular sore spot for her was a tree growing in my front yard that she did not like. She called the city to cut the tree down and the city refused to come onto my property to remove the tree.
    So now I have a ****** off neighbor who calls the ordinance department to complain about chickens that she can’t see and insists on filing a legal complaint. Part of that complaint was that my chickens were harassing her dog through the fence. Seriously?
    Anyway, the ordinance officer comes out for an inspection and sees no sign of chickens anywhere on the premises. He did not see a chicken; he did not hear a chicken; he did not smell a chicken. But since I had spoken in favour of a chicken ordinance before city council he decided to issue a ticket based solely on the statement of a ****** off neighbor.
    The ordinance violation was written against a 50 year-old ordinance.
    [​IMG]§ [​IMG]90.01[​IMG] PETS; SALE OF ANIMALS; PROHIBITIONS.
    (A) No person shall keep or house any animals or fowl within the city except dogs, cats, canaries, or animals commonly classified as pets, customarily kept or housed inside dwellings as household pets.
    (B) No person shall sell, or offer for sale, barter, or give away baby chicks, rabbits, ducklings, or other fowl as pets or novelties, whether or not dyed, colored, or otherwise artificially treated. This division shall not be construed to prohibit the display or sale of natural chicks or ducklings in proper brooder facilities by hatcheries or stores engaged in the business of selling the same to be raised for commercial purposes.
    (Ord. 11-006, passed 4-25-11)

    Copied verbatim from: http://www.amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll/Michigan/gardencity_mi/cityofgardencitymichigancharterandcodeof?f=templates$fn=default.htm$3.0$vid=amlegal:gardencity_mi

    LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
    The ordinance officer visited my farm on March 21, 2012. Several weeks later, I received a post card from 21st District Court to appear for a zoning violation dated March 23, 2012.
    Mid-April, I appeared in court before the Honorable Judge Richard L, Hammer, Jr. of the 21st. District Court. The judge sent me back to meet with the city prosecutor, Timothy L. Cronin (P26417). During this meeting, Mr. Cronin said that if I wanted a farm then I should move out of the city. When I replied that I am unable to move, he said that chickens were not allowed in the city and if I pursued the case that he would “make an example” of me. He went on to say that the mayor did not want farm animals in the city and that he took direction from the mayor. He further indicated that I was not welcome in this city and I would be foolish to continue the case. At no time did he indicate that a compromise could be reached. The case was returned to the judge who set a new appearance date for a few weeks later. I appeared in April and May of 2012 only to have the dates postponed again.
    Following those court appearances, I attended city council meetings and spoke in favour of allowing chickens in Garden City. During one of those meetings, I met a report for the local paper, the Garden City Observer. Reporter Sue Buck spoke to me and asked for an interview and photo session regarding backyard chickens. The article ran on the front page of the June 24 issue. About that time two (2) other people who spoke in favour of keeping chickens were also charged with violations. Again, the ordinance officer saw no chickens at either defendants’ residence. Tickets were simply mailed.
    Now in July of 2012, the animosity of the neighbors has grown. One (CC) vandalized my property and then called the city that my property was in disarray. Then an anonymous call was made to police about a crowing rooster. Oddly enough, I had no rooster at all. July 17th, I had a court appearance and while I was at court, the neighbors (CC’s husband and CS) went to visit my mother who resides in another city. They essentially threaten her in order to get me to get rid of my chickens. Picture, if you will, two (2) men, both over 6 foot tall and well over 200 pounds, standing over an 80 year-old widow making demands that she force her son to capitulate to their demands. My poor mother was so intimidated that she cannot answer the doorbell to this day. The police here in Garden City declined to intervene. The police in Westland paid a “safety call” to my mom but did nothing else.
    By the end of July, the police had been called to my house a half a dozen times. Each time was a response to an anonymous complaint called in. No charges were leveled.

    In August, the police came again in response to a call reporting a skunk. A skunk was found in the neighbor’s yard (CC). Three police officers in two cars responded to the call. They insisted that I do something about the skunk in the neighbor’s yard. The neighbor had mentioned that the skunk had come from me and that I had sent it to spray them. Seriously? Can someone train a skunk to target someone else? So a wild animal is found in someone’s yard. Guess who was cited for having an un-licensed animal. I got a ticket for a wild animal in another person’s yard. The armed police officers forced me from my house to go retrieve a wild skunk. The poor skunk was an orphan with eyes barely open. It was obvious that this poor animal was lost from its mother. I was forced to get the skunk out from under the neighbor’s car. I contacted an animal rescue organization and turned the poor, lost baby over to a wildlife rehabilitator. In return, I get a ticket for following police direction. Seriously?
    Next in August, I’m called into court on three (3) separate dates. Each date is another adjournment of the chicken case. Each of the same dates, the ordinance officer (OO) comes to my house for yet another violation investigation. Keep in mind that the OO was in court during my appearances. The first time he tells me that he enjoys neighbor spats because it keeps him employed and that he get overtime pay for follow ups. The last time here, he tells me that he has the power to put me in jail and make my life miserable. I asked him to leave and he got belligerent. I asked again and he resorted to cursing. At this point, I responded in kind and told him to get the F*** off my property and only return with a warrant. He hasn’t been back since then.
    The rest of autumn was a routine of appearing before the judge for yet another delay or postponement of the case. But during that time, the court graciously allowed for me to have a court appointed attorney to represent me.

    COUNSEL REPRESENTATION
    I’ll have to check my notes, but sometime in fall I was granted a court appointed attorney for my case. Initially, the court told him that the case was about the skunk but in reality, the case was about keeping chickens and the Michigan Right to Farm Act.
    My appointed attorney, James M. Jernigan (P-57035) took the case even though he was somewhat skeptical at first. I explained the RTFA as I understood it and how it applied to my case. I explained the GAAMPs, the history of the law and cited other cases that had been tried and eventually reached the Michigan Court of Appeals.
    I would like to think that I intrigued his sense of justice but maybe it was just a case of trying a legal case based on cause. In any event, Mr. Jernigan went far above what I expected from a public defender representing an indigent defendant. I can’t express my gratitude for his help.
    From the time he took the case, Mr. Jernigan represented me in several appearances that were delayed time and again. Parts of those delays were because of another chicken keeper case being tried in the 21st District Court. That case was actually moved to the city of Wayne and presided by Judge Laura R. Mack, because Judge Hammer was recused for reasons that I cannot comment on. That case is City of Garden City v. Pete Santeiu (Case No, 12 GC 1547 OM). That case was dismissed by Judge Mack. Signed and dated: January 7, 2013.
    In early February, the prosecution amended my case to be a criminal complaint rather than the original animal ordinance violation.
    Now we get back to my case. It was scheduled for a two (2) day jury trial on April 11 and 12, 2013. The judge made it clear that even though the trial was scheduled for 2 days, we were to wrap up the case in one day. Several points of law were disallowed based on the fact that this was a criminal charge and not merely a zoning violation. Case law, Court of Appeals decisions and opinions were discounted. The ruling of Judge Mack (representing the same court) was disallowed. The burden of proof from the prosecution was lesser than the burden of proof of defense (in my opinion). Essentially, I thought that our defense was curtailed from the onset.
    Prosecution witnesses were allowed to observe all initial proceedings while defense witnesses were excluded from the instructions. Prosecution also had the OO at the table throughout the entire proceeding even though he was a witness. I think this had an undue influence on the jury.
    Prosecution called two (2) witnesses. One was the OO who admitted to never seeing a chicken or any evidence of chickens. He admitted under cross-examination that he observed no violations. The second witness (CS) who admitted that he harboured animosity toward the defendant (me). Several defense witnesses testified that I was running a commercial operation and that they had purchased farm products (eggs) from me over the past few years. Neighbors testified that my operation was clean and odor free. There has never been an issue with my chickens and that I am a good neighbor.
    I testified on my own behalf and tried to educate the jury about GAAMPs and MAEAPs and good animal husbandry. My testimony was often interrupted by the prosecution and my attempts of allocation were stifled.
    After a recess for lunch, the prosecution began cross-examination. During the cross, prosecution presented documents (not entered into evidence) that challenged my claim of GAAMP compliance. In a nutshell, it was argued that by me exceeding the GAAMP protocols, I was not “following” the GAAMPs. Thus if I wasn’t following GAAMPs then I was not compliant.
    It was a last minute Hail Mary ploy but I have to admit that it was presented very well. I figured that exceeding the minimum requirements was a good thing. The jury found otherwise.
    I was found guilty of the Criminal Charge of Keeping Chickens!
    Let me repeat that, CRIMINAL chicken keeping.

    Think about that for a minute. A criminal charge follows you for your entire life. A criminal charge must be reported on job applications. A criminal conviction is reported to state and federal agencies.

    SENTENCING
    The sentence is:
    30 days in jail
    6 months of reporting to probation
    $905 in fines
    Pay for the court appointed attorney
    Comply with all city ordinances.

    But the judge was "nice" and suspended the jail time. However, if I fail on any of the above details I will be thrown in jail. That was clearly stated.
    A few days after conviction, new ordinance violations arrived in the mail. These include the skunk, a vandalized porch and peeling paint on my garage. The OO has indicated that he will be visiting often and writing violations for anything that he can. I can expect another year of bi-monthly court appearances.


    03-May-2013 (ETA)
    This tale has received some media attention.

    http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/22148903/garden-city-man-could-get-locked-up-over-chickens

    http://ferndalechickens.com/2013/05/02/garden-city-mi-man-sentenced-to-jail-time-on-the-criminal-charge-of-keeping-chickens/


    06-May-2013 (ETA)
    The third trial for the year (so far) is scheduled for Wednesday, May 8 at 9:00 am. The defendant (Mike) is charged with a violation other than what I was charged with even though the circumstance are nearly identical. Both violations are different from the violation code of Pete's dismissed case.

    08-May-2013 (ETA)
    Mike's trial was proceeding pretty well...up to a point. The judge reached a point where he ordered an adjournment and that the defense provide written documentation of evidence and publications that support his defense. The judge claimed that the law is so complex that he needs to read the arguments both for and against Michigan Right to Farm Act before he can rule on evidence and/or arguments pertaining to the case. Defense has been tasked with providing their case for review prior to further trial proceedings. That defense will be provided to Prosecution and their comments or replies will then be shared with defense. I'm not a lawyer and neither is Mike, but I don't think that the defendant should be obligated to present his defense to the judge or prosecution prior to the actual trial. The next portion of the trial has been moved out several weeks.

    10-May-2013
    The story keeps growing and expanding. Earlier today, I was contacted by an editor of Off The Grid website about this story. http://www.offthegridnews.com/2013/05/06/guilty-man-sentenced-to-jail-for-keeping-chickens/ They have a few facts out of order, but the gist of the story is correct. An interview has been scheduled for early next week for their radio programme. I'll post the link once I get the details.

    On a positive note, my Michigan BYC friends have stepped up to provide homes for all of my adult laying hens. I still have 8 baby Sebrights that need to be relocated by this weekend.

    11-May-2013
    At the urging of friends, a fund-raiser has been started to help pay the fines.
    http://www.gofundme.com/2vvaao?utm_campaign=Emails&utm_source=sendgrid.com&utm_medium=email
    A rally has also been organized so that local people can donate a dollar directly to the court towards the assessed fines. On Friday, May 24. 2013, people are going to show up at the court as a show of support. The address is 6000 Middlebelt Road, Garden City, MI 48135.

    13-May-2013 (edit to add)
    Written request for court transcripts was submitted to the court clerks. A new form was produced and I filled that out, got a copy for my attorney along with the "Judgment of Sentence" and "Register of Actions". Oddly enough, the documents are NOT signed as of yet. The window for filing an appeal is very narrow and much documentation is required. I don't know if clock started at the conviction time or if it starts once the orders are signed. It seems like a stall tactic and I'm getting nervous.

    Since the original ticket was mailed (3/23/2012), there have been 32 separate actions taken by the court, 12 were appearance hearings (w/ transcripts) and 5 were adjournments initiated by the judge. Justice delayed?

    16-May-2013 (edit to add)
    I got a reply from the court reporter regarding my transcript for the case, $455.55 to get a copy. WOW! I need that before the appeal can even start. What a racket! Once I pay the fee, it takes 14 - 21 days to get a copy. The big problem is that an appeal must be filed within a few days of the case being adjucated. I get the impression that 21st District Court is stalling. I still don't have a signed copy of the judgement. Oddly enough, they were quick to issue two (2) summons for a "show cause hearing" and a "probation" hearing. Do they think I'm a flight risk or something? It is beyond surreal.

    On Tuesday, I was interviewed for the radio programme. Bill and Brian were the hosts and they are incensed over this case. Sadly, mine is just one of several taking place in Garden City, across the state of Michigan and the rest of the country. It seems that trying to make a living by farming is a criminal enterprise these days.


    21-May-2013 (edit to add)

    Initially, the fines and costs amounted to the $1157, then the transcript cost was added. According to the court clerks, that amount ($455) had to be paid just to begin the appeal process, IF the judge would allow it to go forward. So I was kind of in Limbo waiting for a decision.
    Then on Monday, I was called by the court reporter to come to the court house to sign some more paperwork. One of those papers was a request for a court appointed attorney to represent me IF an appeal was to be considered.


    Now it goes to the surreal again. I had the $455 for the transcripts and offered to pay. I was told then that I may not have to pay for the report. So I offered that same amount to be applied toward the fine and I was told “sorry, we already shut down the computer”. I tried to pay toward the fine and the court clerk said to come back later.

    Now I’m being told not to do anything until the judge reviews the case and decides what to do.

    Maybe I’ll find out more tomorrow when I report to Probation.

    The above is a response to an e-mail that I received from a supporter. Once I went public with an appeal for financial support I thought that it was vitally important that I be transparent with how any donations were used.

    At this point the court has NOT accepted any payment of the fines/costs associated with this criminal chicken case. I have no idea of what is taking place here. I've been told that any further action lies with what the judge decides to allow to proceed. As of today, I was told that the judge hasn't reviewed any of the documentation.
    23-May-2013 (edit to add)
    http://www.offthegridnews.com/2013/...ew-nazi-america-with-jay-blevins-episode-158/

    My segment of the show starts at 30:34.
    The actual interview lasted for over an hour but like all media, edits are to be expected. I think it turned out pretty well. These guys had done quite a bit of research before hand.
    25-May-2013 (edit to add)
    I suppose that I am adding fuel to the fire. I suppose that I an annoying many city officials.
    I say that only the guilty need be offended.

    [​IMG]


    "Mr. Folker saw a future in Nankin Township and visioned homes on one and a half acres where one could have a garden, an orchard and chickens."

    It wasn't that long ago that this was valid. Now gardens, orchards and chickens are illegal. Even criminal.

    Edit 5/30/2013
    I'm not a lawyer and I sure don't know the rules. But there seems to be things occurring that defy common sense.
    Today I paid the last of my stated fines, or so I thought. It seems that an additional "court cost" was added because I opted to file an appeal. Apparently this is related to the time that judge needs review what is already public record. So another $397 is needed to get the documents that I need for an appeal'
    Edit June 8. 2013
    Two days ago, the city Ordinance Officer came by. He wanted to see my yard. At first, I declined his request. Then he stated that he knew I was on probation and he could have me arrested for not "obeying the terms of probation". Rather than standing my ground, I capitulated. Mainly because one of my 14 week old Sebrights was in the driveway practicing his new crow. [​IMG]
    Oddly enough, the OO had no problem with the young roo. His beef was with a straw bale garden that I have in the front yard. Apparently, the only way to grow flowers is within a commercial pot of some type. And I have been ordered to remove the butterfly garden out front.

    Now it gets weird again, I was told by the OO that the only thing permitted is a grassy lawn.
    I call BS on this statement. It is clear that I am being harassed by the city. In fact, the OO told me that I "should rent my house" and move out of the city.

    He is the second city official to say that I need to move away.
    How many rights does that violate?

    EDIT 10-Jun-2013
    [​IMG]


    New edit (18-July-2013)
    On June 21, 2013, the Garden City ordinance officer left 2 tickets in my mailbox. First off, the mailbox is considered Federal Property and only Postal workers can use it.
    The tickets were for a poultry violation and for having a garden bed in the front yard.

    Now consider this. I was ordered to comply with ALL city ordinances so the chickens had to go. However no time frame was given as to when compliance was expected. The city and OO knew that the last of the chicks were claimed and were to be re-homed on June 22. In spite of this, a ticket was issued. I think this is a "double jeopardy" charge.

    Notwithstanding that charge, a second ticket was issued that cited my butterfly garden as a violation of city ordinance. Part of the violation is the straw bale garden that you see in the photo above.

    As a result of those tickets, my probation has been violated. Without the due process of a hearing. It is presumed that I am guilty without the benefit of a trial. Jail time is looming.

    In the meantime, while I'm still free, I have attended the Baker's Green Acres trial and gave a couple of interviews on July 12. http://bakersgreenacres.com/
    Then I had a follow up interview with Off The Grid News, http://www.offthegridnews.com/2013/07/18/special-update-otgn-catches-up-with-randy-zeilinger-the-criminal-chicken-farmer-episode-166/#
    I also attended the MDARD commissioners' meeting where I was told that the MRTFA only applies to corporate farm operations. Essentially, the LAW was written for big ag and NOT for small farm operations. I suppose that I am pretty much screwed.

    New Edit - 05AUG2013
    I try to refrain from posting while my emotions try to run amok over immediate circumstances. So there are are some time lags in this missive that I post. I'm being objective now.

    Today is August 5, 2013 and my appeal was due to be recorded in the Third Judicial Circuit Court Criminal Court. I'm waiting to hear from my court appointed attorney as to the proceedings. (Case number 13-005097-91-AR)

    In the meantime, I reported to Probation on July 25, 2013. Keep in mind that this probation is a result of the original crime of chicken keeping that was ruled on in April 2013. Now comes the probation officer, Carla Murray ([email protected]) who is mostly concerned with my appeal and how it is proceeding. And to a lesser extent, the subsequent tickets that might violate the terms of my probation. During the 10-15 minute interview, her main concern was what legal recourse I might be taking. Not once, did she mention the original charge that I was convicted of. I find this curious.

    Now on July 28, 2013, I appear in court for arraignment of the additional ordinance violations and potential "probation violation".
    The first step is meeting with the prosecuting attorney. During this meeting, the prosecutor reads the complaint and then says, "this is ********". (His words)
    Seeing as he has gotten to know me over the past year and a half, he says that he assumes that I will take the cases to trial. Then he goes on to say that I should file a harassment suit against the city for "wrongful prosecution" and suggested that his private firm would take the case. I have yet to say a word at this point.

    About this time, the OO enters the room. The prosecutor asks for details but the OO can not cite the alleged violations and asks for a re-inspection. He says that there is a "potential" violation but needs to take another look.

    The prosecutor then writes a note to the judge to delay these proceedings to a future date. I now have to appear again in court on August 28th., 2013.
    The only time that I was allowed to speak was when the judge asked if I agreed to the delay.

    I said, "yes".

    ETA: (29-Aug-2013)

    I was in court yesterday to face my “maybe” chickens and butterfly garden tickets. The good news is that the prosecutor dismissed both charges. The bad news is that the judge decide to keep the “probation violation” charge open until September 25th. I think that goes to show a certain bias of the presiding judge.

    While I was there, Mike showed up for sentencing. He was actually due to be in court the day before and an arrest warrant was issued against him. However, his printed court notice said 08/27/2013 WEDNESDAY. The judge (Hammer) went ahead with the sentencing and verbally voided the arrest warrant. After reviewing the probation report that recommends sentencing, the judge imposed a minimal fine of $197 and six (6) months of non-reporting probation and compliance with all city ordinances. Mike was also given a 30-day suspended jail sentence.

    Now today, Thursday, I reported to the probation officer. During our meeting, she inquired about my most recent charges and questioned the reasoning of the dismissal of the charges. I told her that the prosecution felt that there was no basis for the charges in the first place. Then she questioned me about how many chickens I still had. When I told her that I had none, she asked where they went to. She wanted the names of the people or farms that took them in. I just said that they were gone from my farm. She persisted and asked if they were still in the city. Again, I replied that I have no chickens on my property.

    Then she asked me where Mike’s chickens were and who took them in. And if he still had any chickens on his property. I didn’t bother to reply. I think this is far beyond the scope of a probation officer’s duties. But I also think that is displays a city directed agenda. The day before, the ordinance officer also wanted me to tell him who in the city has chickens. As if I actually knew!

    Edit Update October 11, 2013
    I appeared in court on September 25 to address charges dating from June 2013 that were dismissed in August 2013 as be "unfounded" by the attending prosecutor. These were the "maybe chickens" charge and the butterfly garden. As stated above, those charges were dropped. However, the judge was reluctant to let the charges go away. He called the prosecuting attorney in to explain why there were no charges brought forth. The Prosecutor explained that there was no offense or violation of law to be considered. He actually stood before the judge and said on record that there were no charges to be considered. The judge was looking for a probation violation and the prosecutor said that there was no basis for a violation. Reluctantly, the judge ruled to "dismiss without prejudice" the probation violation (page 12 and 13 of official court transcript). All other matters before the court were adjourned to October 9, 2013. The interesting thing to note is that during this hearing, the judge repeatedly brought up chickens and the original case that was concluded in April 2013. The judge also states (on the record) a mention of the appeal of the original chicken case. This was early in the proceeding (page 7) prior to addressing the issues before the court.

    I should note here that the page references are referring to the official court transcript that I received today (Oct. 11, 2013).
    I would also like to thank the court reporters who have provided me with these transcripts in a timely fashion. They have been friendly, sympathetic and above all professional all throughout these proceedings.
    Edit Update 21-May-2014
    It has been over six (6) months since my last update. I had pretty much thought that this ordeal was over and that I could concentrate on the issues of backyard farming in Michigan.
    The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has been working to revise the policy that is the vehicle of obtaining protection under the Michigan Right to Farm Act (PA93 of 1981, as amended). I, along with scores of Michigan small farmers, have been attending every meeting of the Agriculture Commissioners and every public hearing that has been conducted regarding our right to have livestock (eg chickens) in our backyards.

    Sadly, the ag commissioners, voted on April 28, 2014 to approve a poorly written policy by a vote of 4-1. The policy, Siting Selection and Odor Management GAAMP (Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practice) was changed to effectively deny equal protection under the State Law. You can learn more by visiting the Michigan Small Farm Council website http://www.michigansmallfarmcouncil.org/ and the Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund http://farmtoconsumer.org/

    Based on the policy change, the Garden City ordinance officer paid me a visit and wanted to "inspect" my yard, garage and shed. His reasoning was that he heard that the Michigan Right to Farm law had been repealed and that he knows I have bees and chickens from last year. Since he was trespassing on my land, I asked him repeatedly to leave. After posturing, blustering and threatening behaviour he finally did leave the premises. But as he left he said that I could expect lots of tickets coming my way.

    That brings me to today...I was in court to answer a summons by the judge for a "violation of probation" based on whatever the OO had told him after the visit.

    The judge wanted to know why I refused to let the OO in and I explained that I have a right to privacy. The judge countered that as a criminal, my rights may no longer apply. He held up a piece of paper and said that it said so right there. I was not allowed to read the paper he displayed. He went on to say that even though I had ended the six (6) month reporting probation period on October 11, 2013 probation was extended on November 13, 2013 for another year. No public hearing, trial or other event occurred that I was party to on that date. Apparently the court conducts secret proceedings here in Garden City, Michigan.

    So here I am today in a legal limbo. The judge has given me 30 days to allow the OO to visit my property or I will face more criminal charges and jail time. Never mind civil rights or state law, just do what the judge says or else....

    Meanwhile, I will be in Lansing again tomorrow to testify before the Michigan Senate Agriculture Committee on the impact of the recent MDARD policy change. Follow me on facebook for updates. Thanks.

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  1. RaZ
    @Loc20chick , thanks for posting. I've kind of let this blog sit idle.
    I need to update it with some of the things that have taken place over the last 2 months. It ain't pretty.
  2. Loc20chick
    Praying all this gets resolved and you enjoy living in your home doing what you love peacefully. This is outrageous, literally unbelievable that it actually happened and continues..
  3. eldenbrady
    It appears to me that the delaying filing the final order deal is common practice. They know you cannot appeal until an order is filed so they keep you in limbo as long as possible. Are you still waiting on the appeal?
  4. RaZ
    For the most part, I have lived in this area nearly my whole life. I grew up in "Wasteland", went to school in "Stinkster" and spent a lot of my free time in "Garbage City". Those names were from the 60's and 70's and I haven't heard those terms in a very long time.

    I can appreciate what you have written and the admission that it was done so in anger. That same anger runs through me quite often and is reason why I have not updated this blog in over a month. I find it difficult to be objective when the city calls me into court every 2-3 weeks.

    I was in court 2 days ago, October 9, 2013 and it was ugly and hostile from the city side. However, in comparing to to my appearance 2 weeks prior (September 25), it was almost pleasant. Today (10/11/13) I received the transcript of the September 25 hearing. The written record clearly shows a judicial bias as well as general rudeness on the part of the judge.

    There is much more going on here and I will update the main story this weekend with more details. Stay tuned.
  5. RoostersandRed
    Now I understand why everyone calls it "Garbage City". So sorry you're going through this. I am livid! CO, CS, and the local gov't are exactly why I avoid the area. There has to be something we can do to help. You're better than me, I'd be filing complaints left and right, just to harass them back. I don't have patience for bullies. Admittedly, writing this in anger.
  6. chickwhispers
    WTH***! No garden in the front yard? In GARDEN City? Who Knew? MRTFA...was made for small farmers wasn't it? My sister lives in Dexter and can't have chickens, but I don't understand why and how towns can restrict this with the MRTFA. My Mom lives in Westland now, I should probably warn her to behave in Garden City! RaZ you are definitely being harassed. I would be considering a suit against them. I would be so infuriated! And I am and it's not even happening to me!
  7. erikk
    Please keep the updates coming. It certainly seems clear that the powerful want to subjugate the powerless. I congratulate you on standing up for yourself.
  8. Chickenjoe123
    I have a neighbor with a very aggressive dog. People complain about it barking all the time, and it tries to jump the fence and bite me any time I go in my yard. I had a dog that is now passed away I used to play with in the yard his excuse was "why you gotta stand there in your yard you know it aggravates my dog" I told him because it was my "F***ing land, and he can't tell me what I can do on my own property, and if he thinks he can't I'd tell the police how many people that mutt of his has bit. His excuse is how sweet it is with him and it was abused. That doesn't matter when you take a dog with that issues you fix them and do something about it. I know its not entirely related to yours, but i feel it sort of is, since she tried to tell you what you could do.
  9. Trefoil
    If you can prove that the violations were put in your mailbox, I believe that is a federal offense.
  10. mg15
    Report to the ACLU and ask them to represent you.

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