MOUNT VERNON – Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder wrongly dismissed a suit for the right to own chickens in Granite City, Fifth District appellate judges ruled on Aug. 28.

They directed Crowder to grant 35 days to Michael Woody, so he can name and serve a city agency rather than the city over a $100 fine for keeping farm animals.

Woody, pro se, invokes a constitutional right as a Native American to keep chickens.

Crowder dismissed his suit on a motion from the city last year, finding summons did not timely issue and necessary parties were not named.

Justice Bruce Stewart agreed up to a point, writing that Woody should have sued the ordinance enforcement department and the hearing officer.

Stewart wrote that Woody’s failure to name them “should have caused the circuit court to grant the plaintiff additional time in which to name them as defendants and to secure service of summons upon them.”

Naming and serving an administrative agency “is particularly important, for it is the agency that must file an answer consisting of a record of the proceedings had before it, or a written motion or appearance,” he wrote.

In 2008, he added, the Legislature increased the extension for new names from 21 days to 35 and provided for amendments adding them to complaints.

“The obvious intent of the legislative amendment is to reduce the risk of error in naming defendants and serving them with summons,” he wrote.

Justices Thomas Welch and Judith Cates concurred.

Woody challenged his violation notice at a hearing in 2011.

Hearing officer Scott Griffith rejected his argument, fined him $100, and served him with a written copy of his decision.

Woody sought administrative review in circuit court within a month, suing Granite City and Madison County.

The circuit clerk issued a summons to Granite City but none to the county.

The city answered in a month with a motion to dismiss.

Crowder held a hearing, granted the motion, and hand served the order on Woody.

Stewart wrote, “Nothing indicates that the court heard evidence at the hearing.”

He wrote that the record on appeal included no transcript.

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