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Hazelwood Girl Scout cookie lawsuit crumbles in court

Hazelwood Girl Scout cookie lawsuit crumbles in court

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UPDATED at 4:42 p.m. with comment from Hazelwood's attorney.

CLAYTON • A St. Louis County judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the mother of two Hazelwood teens who were ordered last spring to stop selling Girl Scout cookies in front of their home.

Circuit Judge Maura McShane threw out the case Friday. Carolyn Mills had filed the civil suit in St. Louis County Court in April on behalf of her two daughters, Caitlin, 16, and Abigail, 14, who have sold Girl Scout cookies from the stand on Latty Avenue for several years.

In her dismissal, McShane wrote that the Mills first should have exhausted their appeals asking the city to reconsider barring cookie sales before taking the case to circuit court.

The court "lacks the aurhority to review plaintiffs' claims as a result of the exhaustion requirement," McShane wrote.

The Mills' lawyer, Dave Roland, co-founder of the Freedom Center of Missouri, a new legal advocacy group that promotes individual liberty and limited government, said he disagreed with McShane's order, saying the Mills girls were asking for a ruling on a question of legal rights and not solely on Hazelwood's interpretation of city codes.

"Can the city forbid them from selling cookies? Is that legal?" He said. "That's a question that absolutely should be answered in court."

Kevin O'Keefe, a lawyer for the city of Hazelwood, said he believes McShane made the right decision.

"The case should never have been in court in the first place," O'Keefe said. The constitutional claims (Roland) was asserting and that the judge found is that he 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 didn't 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 were not affiliated with the lawsuit.

In March, Carolyn Mills received a letter from Hazelwood's code enforcement division informing her that a neighbor had complained the Mills family's cookie booth was increasing traffic and causing dogs to bark on her block. The letter warned Mills that selling products from their home without a permit violated the city's 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 Hazelwood's warnings.

Roland said he plans to ask McShane to reconsider tossing out the suit before appealing the case to a higher court.

"One way or another, the case is certainly not going away," Roland said.

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