CLAYTON • The Hazelwood cookie lawsuit crumbled because it went to court too soon, a judge here has ruled.
At issue was whether two teenage girls could continue selling Girl Scout cookies at a stand outside their home after Hazelwood officials said it violated city code.
St. Louis County Circuit Judge Maura McShane threw out the case Friday, saying that plaintiff Carolyn Mills, the mother of the girls, should have exhausted all attempts to get the city to reconsider before taking the matter to court.
The court "lacks the authority to review plaintiffs' claims as a result of the exhaustion requirement," McShane wrote.
Mills filed the suit in April on behalf of her two daughters, Caitlin, 16, and Abigail, 14, who have sold cookies from the stand on Latty Avenue for several years.
Their lawyer, Dave Roland, co-founder of the Freedom Center of Missouri, a group that advocates individual liberty and limited government, took issue with McShane's order. He said the issue was legal rights, not just Hazelwood's interpretation of city codes.
"Can the city forbid them from selling cookies? Is that legal?" he asked. "That's a question that absolutely should be answered in court."
Kevin O'Keefe, a lawyer for the city of Hazelwood, said he believed McShane had made the right decision.
"The case should never have been in court in the first place," O'Keefe said. He said Roland "didn't use available remedies in going to the board of adjustment in the city, and so it's not right for court."
The suit did not seek money but rather a judge's ruling on Hazelwood's warnings that the Mills family was violating city code. The Girl Scouts of America was not a party in the suit.
In March, Carolyn Mills received a letter from Hazelwood's code enforcement division informing her that a neighbor had complained the family's cookie booth was increasing traffic and causing dogs on the block to bark. The letter warned Mills that selling products from their home without a permit violated the home occupancy code.
The Mills family kept running their roadside cookie booth — waiting until the evening hours when they thought code enforcement would be off the clock — despite the warnings.