Widgren v. Maple Grove Township

429 F.3d 575 (6th Cir. 2005)


P owns twenty acres of largely undeveloped land. Densely populated trees, hills, and thick overgrowth cover much of the grounds. Around June of 2002, P began construction of a house in the middle of his rectangular-shaped lot and weather-sealed the structure later that year. By the spring of 2003, the area immediately surrounding the house was cleared, routinely mowed, and a clear line marked the perimeter of the mowed portion. The cleared area, which was not enclosed by a fence, contained a fire pit, pruned trees, and a picnic table. A thousand feet of dirt driveway the sole public access to the property winds through 'swampy and thick' terrain, a row of pine trees, and a rye field, and connect the house to a public road. A metal gate stands at the mouth of the driveway that displays multiple 'No Trespassing' signs, one of which warns 'federal officers of the IRS, HEW, HUD, environmental, health, and other unconstitutional agencies' as well as 'all local members of planning & zoning boards' of a $5,000 per person land use fee. The house can plainly be seen only from two vantage points outside the property - from the adjoining parcel to the south and from the air. Ps did not obtain a building permit for the construction of the house. Ps did not obtain a building permit for the construction of the house. In the spring of 2003, the zoning administrator and the tax assessor, entered the property a total of three times to confirm the zoning violation, to post a civil infraction on the front door of the house, and to conduct a tax assessment through observation of the exterior of the house. Ps brought suit alleging various violations of federal and state law. Both parties moved for partial summary judgment. Relying on the 'open fields' doctrine, the Court granted Ds' motion and held that no Fourth Amendment violation occurred. Ps appealed.