Cheshire Sheriff’s No-Trespass Orders Ruled Unconstitutional

footeAt the very beginning of 2012, several activists including myself were banned from the entire Cheshire “superior” court property by then-Sheriff Dick Foote. Foote’s ridiculous order claimed it was due to “persistent harassment” of court staff. He was referring to some activists wishing the court bureaucrats “happy holidays” as they entered and left their workplace. Additionally, we sang them some Chronic Carols and asked them some questions about the thuggish behavior of their coworkers, the court security agents.

A couple months later, Kelly, Derrick J, and I teamed up with Miami photojournalist Carlos Miller and paid a visit to the court on official court business. Sheriff Foote refused to return calls from us, which is what he was demanding in his order before we’d be allowed on the public property for which we’re all forced to pay. All three of us were arrested and Carlos was threatened by Sheriff Caleb Dodson.

Due to facing multiple charges from multiple arrests, Derrick made the tough choice of taking a plea, but Kelly and I didn’t have the same weight of charges on us and we knew we were in the right and the trespass order was wrong, so we pressed on. County attorney David Lauren met with us and offered a pretty sweet plea deal – he’d drop the charge to a violation level (it was being charged as a Class A with up to a year in jail the possible penalty) offense and it’d be a $250 fine, suspended on condition of good behavior. I was out of jail on a nine-month suspended sentence from my last conviction and if I received another misdemeanor conviction I could go back to jail for the remaining nine months. Despite that looming threat, I refused the plea, as did Kelly, and the matter was to continue to trial.

Attorney Jon MeyerShortly thereafter, heroic free-speech attorney Jon Meyer stepped forward to take the case on principle and pro-bono. In a hearing held regarding the validity of the no trespass order, Meyer had Sheriff Dick Foote on the ropes. That raw video is long (and entertaining in many parts), but for those with less time, Meyer also summarized Foote’s ridiculous claims regarding the order in post-hearing memorandums, which you can read here.

Now, several months after that hearing, Keene district court’s judge Edward Burke has made the right decision. He has ruled in an order that the no-trespass orders, as applied to me and Kelly Voluntaryist, are unconstitutional and dismissed the cases against us!

burkeHowever, his order does not apply to the other three activists who received them, as they were not involved in the case in front of the court. We will next focus on invalidating all of the orders by writing to the new Sheriff, Eli Rivera, and giving him the chance to withdraw the orders before we go back to court for a motion for declaratory judgement against all the orders.

Many will be asking, what about a counter-suit against the state? That’s a good idea, but unfortunately attorney Meyer does not believe it is likely to succeed, given the “immunities” the state agents have granted themselves. Meyer did note that should state agents issue further ridiculous orders and make arrests that a counter-suit would then be stronger. So, the ball is in their court regarding how they will behave in the future towards liberty activists. Now they know their “Let’s ban them from wherever we don’t want them” approach is not foolproof.

Thanks Edward Burke, for doing the right thing.