The problem began with Girl Scout cookies. This is a strange truth, to be sure, but that problem progressed when Girl Scouts Abigail and Caitlin Mills were barred from selling those cookies in their home driveway. In March, their home city of Hazelwood prohibited the girls and their mother, Carolyn, from peddling Thin Mints based on a city ordinance that prohibits the sale of commodities from home. In April, the girls took the city to court.
In the months before and since, the Mills family's case has developed as a smaller part of a nationwide epidemic that finds city governments attempting to prevent similar sales, a category that extends as far as the all-American lemonade stand. The Freedom Center of Missouri has taken on the representation of the two Girl Scouts, whose case has since appeared on national outlets such as The Drudge Report. In one day, the two appeared on both Fox & Friends and MSNBC.
Tomorrow, the girls will appear in court. In the next step of the proceedings that began when the Freedom Center filed in early April, the City of Hazelwood has entered a motion to dismiss the case on the basis that the Mills family requested the wrong type of permit. The bureaucratic issues are murky, but the city's response is that the Mills family should have taken their complaints to the city's board of zoning adjustments instead of to court.
"What's not clear is exactly why they think the board of adjustment needs to be involved," says Dave Roland, attorney for the Mills family and director of litigation at the Freedom Center. "The city has said that the Mills family has applied for a permit to sell the cookies under the home occupation ordinance of the city, which is not true. I'm just going to stand up, show the actual application and let that correct itself."
Tomorrow's hearing will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the St. Louis County Courthouse, and Roland expects it won't last long. This case is the first event in the epidemic that has made it even this far in the judicial system. In previous cases, which typically end in "my bad" admissions, the city governments have backed off after media attention and made public amends to the families involved. The City of Hazelwood has, instead, taken on four attorneys.
"No one has ever been able to get one of these situations in front of a court," Roland says. "I believe this is a constitutional issue. If someone is using their driveway in a way that is completely harmless, I don't believe there's been a crime or anything wrong going on there. Can cities really tell kids that they're not allowed to have concession stands in their front yards?"
Roland predicts that tomorrow's most likely ending will be the easiest one, some sort of special permission granted to the Mills family in retribution. Although he says the girls don't want special privileges and are now more focused on pursuing the national issue, they will accept the offer if it's given. Permission to sell the cookies is the fastest way to make the case go away, but there's always a trickier (and more expensive to tax payers) route.
"If the city does intend to fight this out, we fully intend to take it as far as the Missouri Supreme Court at least," Roland says. "And if the US Supreme Court wants to take a look at it, we'll take it that far."
Make sure to check out our update, posted after the hearing Thursday.
Watch the video below to see the launch of the cookie stand case and a peak at the two girls who started it: