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SF Doctor’s $12M Garden Fence Lawsuit Against City Tossed by Judge

Written by Garrett LeahyPublished Feb. 16, 2023 • 1:43pm
Mihal Emberton (left) and her wife sit outside their home in San Francisco. | Jason Henry for The Standard

A doctor’s lawsuit against the city of San Francisco for $12 million has been tossed by a federal judge, but the doctor may still have a chance to get her case heard.

Federal Judge Thomas Hixson ruled Wednesday that many of the claims filed by Mihal Emberton, who alleged civil rights violations committed against her by the city, are meritless.

Emberton sued San Francisco for $12 million in August 2022, alleging that city orders to take down a garden fence and other yard improvements violated her constitutional rights. The city had deemed them noncompliant with its building code.

Mihal Emberton (right) and her wife stand outside their home in San Francisco. | Jason Henry for The Standard

Emberton, a family medicine doctor, said that the focus of the lawsuit was “not about the money,” but about changing the building permit enforcement system in San Francisco. Emberton was contacted for comment.

READ MORE: Doctor Sues SF for $12M in Garden Fence Spat—but Says ‘It’s Not About the Money’

In its Feb. 15 ruling, the court dismissed the federal claims by Emberton, which include the alleged constitutional violations and discrimination, but did not rule on allegations by Emberton that the city violated state laws. State courts could still hear the doctor’s case.

Mihal Emberton stands outside her home in San Francisco. | Jason Henry for The Standard

“We are pleased the court agreed that the plaintiff’s federal claims were without merit and that the city’s efforts to enforce local codes did not violate the plaintiff’s constitutional rights,” said San Francisco City Attorney spokesperson Jen Kwart.

Hixson said Emberton can have her case heard again if she amends the parts of her complaint alleging the city violated federal laws, but she must file the amended complaint by March 15.

Hixson advised Emberton to think twice before filing an amended federal complaint.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at

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