THE WORD NUISANCE would be given new meaning under a piece of legislation authored by Rep. Andy Dawkins (DFL-St. Paul). The bill--which has passed in the House and is on its way to the Senate--would allow neighborhood groups to sue people posing trouble in their neighborhoods: prostitutes, gamblers, those keeping a disorderly house, drug dealers, anyone with an illegal gun. The only restriction would be that the person would have to have been a nuisance at least twice during the previous year. The bill ensures that neighbors will keep close track--if they win a suit, they can regain attorneys fees and damages of at least $500 per incident.
"What is really going to happen," says Dawkins, "is that a lot of private attorneys and county attorneys are going to write letters to those who have previous convictions saying, 'Give us the $500 and we won't sue you.' Hopefully they would say, 'I don't want my name in the paper again and don't want to be sued.'"