City Pier vs. Private Pier: City 1, Private Pier 0.

Equal Protection Argument Does not Fly Against City of Lake Geneva.

In Johnson v. City of Lake Geneva, the Johnsons were ordered by the City to reduce the length of their pier to 100 feet or less, as required by a City ordinance.  Although the Johnson’s made a number of arguments, most failed because back in 1998, and again in 2007, they had signed stipulations agreeing to limit the length of their pier to 100 feet or, if the ordinance ever increased the length, to that new length limit.  But interestingly, the City had created an exception for municipal piers, and indeed the City’s pier exceeded 100 feet.  The Johnson argued that they must be treated similarly to the City, essentially that it was unfair for the City to exempt itself.  However, the Court easily found that the City’s pier was for a public purpose, while the Johnson’s pier was for a private purpose, and thus the two were not “similarly situation” and no violation of equal protection occurred.  Although on the surface this may seem unfair, in fact the “public purpose” of government actions often allows government to act in ways that a private party could not.

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