Resident says rights were infringed

To the Editor:

We have a dangerous case of infringement of rights occurring in Ridgecrest. The city is trying to take the property of Mr. Dale Howard by way of a receivership action in order to enforce what they see as code violations pertaining to debris and junk material storage.

While the city may well be in its rights to pursue these enforcements through the proper methods, the problem at this time is that a civil suit by the city is in action for the purpose taking all his properties, including his residence. This means that a court-ordered action may be taken against Howard without benefit of a jury of his peers to decide the outcome or even the opportunity to cross-examine his accusers. The only people involved in the case during the trial will be himself, the judge and the attending attorneys.

This is a horrific method to take a citizens’ property from him. Where in the last number of years did our right to have a trial by jury disappear? Why is a civil suit being pursued against Mr. Howard instead? Perhaps the city decided it was the easiest route to take. Perhaps they became familiar with a law firm named Jones & Mayer and became convinced that they could get the job done. Why might that be? Listen to the published information on the Jones & Mayer website concerning receivership cases:

“Jones & Mayer is one of the leading law firms specializing in Health & Safety Receiverships across the state. Receiverships for severely substandard properties are quickly emerging as the future of code enforcement across the state. Benefits of the remedy include: the ability to present an emergency application and obtain appointment of receiver within 72 hours of discovery of threat, etc. Jones & Mayer offers services, expertise and a team of professionals unique to any other law firm in the state in that our Receivership Division routinely provides legal representation to public agencies in obtaining the appointment of receivers.”

Sounds like the kind of property attack dog needed for this kind of action. The problem is that we have rights in this country that are being violated here. The U.S. Bill of Rights states in Article 5: “nor shall he be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” and Article 14 states: “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This principle is also referred to in the Declaration of Independence as an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, which was understood to be the right to private property. In other words, you can’t take a person’s property from him without a trial by jury.

City Council, I call on you to demand that Mr. Howard have his rights recognized and that this civil suit be dropped. He deserves his day in court before a jury. If this city is allowed to take this course of action, we set a dangerous precedent. A man’s property is precious territory. That needs to be recognized and defended in our town. Fancy law firms that skirt around these principles need to find employment elsewhere.

Freedom to the good people of Ridgecrest —

Mike Neel

Story First Published: 2013-03-13