In the appropriately named Bayonet Point, Florida, Joseph Prudente, 66, is in jail indefinitely for the failure to sod his grass. The good (and fully lawned) people of the Beacon Woods Civic Association secured the contempt order because Prudente is required to keep his lawn with a full and healthy display of grass. The problem is that Prudente is on a fixed income, recently had his car repossessed, and cannot afford it. The association lawyer, however, says that such jailing is merely the sign of a fair and serious legal system.
Technically, Prudente is being held in contempt presumably for his failure to respond to the legal complaint, but the question is why such a matter became a legal dispute in the first place. Prudente is obviously in distress financially but his neighbors seemed to care more about good lawn care than being good neighbors.
A retired nurse, Prudente’s adjustable rate mortgage went up an extra $600 a month and Wachovia repossessed his Toyota Scion. His daughter and her two young children, is also broke and recently moved in with him. He ignored the complaint filed by the association against him and the court awarded the association $795 in fees, which included a $645 attorney’s fees and a $150 fee for “an expert witness.” I am not sure of what an expert in a lawn case might be, but they cost $150 if you are looking for one.
Circuit Judge W. Lowell Bray gave him 30 days to get his life and lawn in order.
The Board is obviously really torn up about sending a grandfather to jail for a lawn: “It’s a sad situation. But in the end, I have to say he brought it upon himself.” The Assocaition’s lawyer Thomas Gurran says that the association had “just wanted Mr. Prudente to comply with the lawn restriction.” How about this for an idea: buy a box of seed and help the guy out instead of using court and jail time to enforce a minor contractual provision?
Yet, Gurran insists that “Many orders and judgments … would be absolutely meaningless if they could not be enforced by a judge’s contempt power.” True, and he should not have ignored the complaint. However, he could not afford a lawyer and when makes a mockery of our courts is when parties take these type of matters into the legal system when they used to be handled between neighbors.
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