Hampton vs Deland - Whither the Media?

Would you ever want to live in a state where selectmen can drag you into court for doing something that is within your rights, such as passing a petitioned warrant article?

A week ago Monday this writer was in Rockingham Superior Court helping one Tammy Deland of Hampton NH. Mrs. Deland found herself the defendant in a case brought against her by – The Town of Hampton.

Junk cars? Traffic tickets? Loud pipes? Nope. This is better and almost unbelievable.

Tammy Deland drafted, and the legislative body of Hampton passed, after all the required hearings, a petitioned growth ordinance under RSA 675:4. That was her “crime.”

Consider this: a citizen follows the statutes and becomes involved in her local political process and the Board of Selectmen, at the urging of their esteemed counsel, bring her to Superior Court as a defendant in a case for PRELIMINARY INJUNCTIVE RELIEF and DECLARATORY JUDGEMENT.

As we sat at the table in front of the Judge McHugh Tammy said she was nervous. I told her take a look at Hampton's lawyer. His hand held a paper that was trembling like a leaf. She calmed down a bit as he rattled off his pathetic attempt at intimidating Tammy and anyone else who in the future ever wanted to petition in that town.

Judge McHugh stopped the Hampton counsel several times to ask questions. One interesting question was why Hampton did not ask for court costs. The illustrious little scrapper said he informed Mrs Deland he would not ask for court costs if he won because they were only litigating to stay out of court. If that makes any sense.

As could be expected the Hampton attorney ate up as much of the court clock rambling on about how complicated the ordinance process was and how Mrs. Deland had not met the mark of a good ordinance (the voters thought she did). Then it was our turn.

Tammy told the judge she was nervous and never would have submitted a petitioned warrant article to the Hampton Town Meeting if she thought she would be dragged into court. She then asked if I could speak for her. Judge McHugh said 'no problem' and Hampton did not object.

I pointed out that the preliminary injunctive relief sought by the town should fail because (1) Hampton had other means to accomplish their stated goal of staying out of court such as NOT enforcing what they believed to be an unenforceable ordinance. This was even stated in their pleadings. If other legal means of solving an issue are available an injunction should not be granted. (2) The only “irreparable harm,” needed to be proved in a successful preliminary injunction, would be to Mrs. Deland not the Town. She is the one having to hire, or find, counsel or see her legally created petition, passed by the voters, fail for lack of a defense.

Then I reminded the judge of the long and drawn out warning he gave to three habitual offenders who right before our case pleaded guilty. He asked each one if they had been intimidated into doing so or if they were given something of value in exchange for their pleas. The judge wanted to make sure everyone knew their Constitutional Rights. So I pointed out that Tammy Deland had the right to participate in her local government without intimidation and the Court should see that she was protected as well.

I thanked the Hampton counsel for being so gracious as to not ask for costs this time but posed the question to the judge that this may not always be the case and that this whole issue should return to Hampton for political conclusion as it was designed to be.

Do you ever want to live in a state where selectmen can drag you into court for passing a petitioned warrant article?

Once again, as with 91-A, assessments, compelled speech, voter fraud, and a host of other issues that really effect New Hampshire taxpayers, the antique media is absent on this story.