Power Trip

Janet Reno’s Sister Owes a Florida Developer $4 Million. She Has Zero Intention of Paying.

What’s the best way to stifle environmental opposition? A massive lawsuit.

Rebecca Renner
GEN
Published in
13 min readOct 25, 2018

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Photography by Erika Larsen

WWhen 77-year-old environmental activist Maggy Hurchalla stepped out of her deposition on the morning of July 16, 2018, she was surprised to find a sheriff’s deputy blocking her way to the parking lot. He held a thick stack of papers.

“Give me your car keys, or we’ll have to tow your car,” said the deputy, holding out his hand. He had a court order to seize her white 2004 Toyota Camry and two of the kayaks at her house. The car, with 207,000 miles on it and no working air conditioning, had sentimental value: It had once belonged to Hurchalla’s sister, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, who passed away in 2016.

“That leaves me without a way to get home,” Hurchalla said. She offered to drive herself from the deposition near Stuart, Florida, to her home on the St. Lucie Estuary and show the police which kayaks to take. She wanted to make sure they didn’t accidentally seize kayaks that belonged to her friends.

The deputy said someone was already at the house removing the kayaks. They were only doing what they had to do, he said. Then he took her keys.

Hitching a ride, Hurchalla raced home on the Intracoastal Waterway. But by the time she arrived, the kayaks were gone, and the court order to seize them was stuffed into the screen door. One of the kayaks had also belonged to her sister, who bought it used in 1996.

Later that day, Hurchalla wrote in an impassioned blog post about the incident. “There is something very childish about thinking that if they take away my car and my toys I will burst into tears and stop defending the First Amendment,” she wrote. “The car and the kayaks can be replaced. The First Amendment cannot.”

Hurchalla, who is retired, now has to pay Lake Point $4,391,708 in return for her activism.

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Rebecca Renner
GEN
Writer for

Journalist and fiction writer. Bylines: the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Paris Review, Tin House, The Guardian, National Geographic, etc.