Hinsdale couple wins legal battle over yard sculpture

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A Hinsdale couple won a two-year battle over a sculpture in their yard. (WLS)

A couple in west suburban Hinsdale, Ill., has won a two-year legal battle over a sculpture of the Lady of Justice in their yard.

Village officials tried to force them to remove the sculpture and fined them hundreds of thousands of dollars until a judge ruled the village's actions were unconstitutional.

Curt Kmiecek's motto is "never accept defeat," which served him well in his life, from 30 years in the Air Force to his long marriage to a Civil Rights attorney.

"Things mean things, words mean things; that's Lady Justice," Kmiecek said.

Lady Justice was once an old, dead ash tree which was brought to life by an artist with a chainsaw. The day the statue was completed two years ago, he had a catastrophic skydiving accident.

"As I come out of one form of my hospitalization I find out we got a notice from the village saying we're in violation of codes," Kmiecek said.

"The original letter said they were going to take it. Take it down. Or we had to take it down," said Dana Kurtz, Kmiecek's wife and attorney.

While Kurtz filed a countersuit calling Hinsdale's ordinance unconstitutional, Kmiecek again refused to accept defeat.

"We came out here and got chained up with my power chair to [the statue]. I sat out for six hours on a cold, rainy day," he said.

On Tuesday the scales of justice in DuPage County tipped in their favor.

"The court found the sign ordinance of the village is unconstitutional and allowed our counterclaim to stand," Kurtz said.

The village released a statement on the ruling, saying:

"The Village of Hinsdale is disappointed in the court's ruling in the Kurtz Investments v. Hinsdale case. The Village is in the process of analyzing the opinion for future actions. In the meantime, the Village continues to hope residents will be sensitive to, and respectful of, their neighbors. From a resident perspective, this was a simple case. Neighbors complained about a fairly large statue in a residential yard that appeared to be a commercial sign for the Plaintiff's law office. The Village permits certain small, non-disruptive businesses to locate in residential areas. The complaints of the neighbors were real and valid and the Village's response was made in good faith and in an effort to maintain the reasonable expectations of our residential neighborhoods."

"First amendment freedoms and artistic expression is very important and should be protected," Kurtz said.

So there she stands and there Lady Justice will legally stay.
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