The first hearing of the civil action filed by the “city of Keene” against myself and five others, alleged to be associated with Robin Hood of Keene, commenced earlier this afternoon. (Full video here) Despite the city’s numerous written pleadings for urgent action to be taken by the court, the issue of whether a preliminary injunction would be granted was not entertained. Instead, the judge requested optional positions from both sides on the constitutionality surrounding the proceedings, granting twenty days to file additional paperwork before a full evidentiary hearing would be scheduled. The city’s attorney Tom Mullins did not make much effort to obtain the emergency injunction he had sought after Ian Freeman’s motion to dismiss became the primary subject of today’s hearing. Ian is the only individual of the six named to have filed additional motions with the court, the five others only having responded as was obligated of them through answers to the city’s initial filings. Sought by the nebulous “city of Keene” through Mr. Mullins is a fifty-foot barrier between those who participate in Robin Hooding (or in Pete Eyre’s case, are somehow vaguely associated with Robin Hooding) and the city’s three parking enforcers.
Handed to the defendants by Mullins upon entry to the court was a new memorandum repeating the city’s position and dated June 11. Attached to the back of this new memorandum, which Judge John Kissinger asked not be considered before defendants have ample time to respond, was a faux-order from the court presumably penned by Mullins, which leaves a blank space for a signature if the court were to issue it.
During today’s hearing Judge Kissinger rightly asserted that at the full hearing, evidence would need to be brought forward supporting claims against each of the six individuals, prompting Mr. Mullins to allege that the defendants were not just “any group of individuals”, but a, “collective group”. Mr. Mullins reiterated his assertions that the intention of participants in Robin Hooding is the elimination of the city’s parking department by means of “harassing and intimidating” parking enforcement officers, which presumably constitutes a criminal act under NH RSA 642:1, Obstructing Government Operations. That RSA opens with, “A person is guilty of a misdemeanor if that person uses intimidation, actual or threatened force or violence, simulated legal process, or engages in any other unlawful conduct with a purpose to hinder or interfere with a public servant…” Granted, the burden of proof is much lower in civil court as opposed to criminal court, where the state is required to support all of its claims with proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Even in this civil proceeding, it is unlikely the city will be able to justify its claims with the lower burden of proof requiring only a preponderance of the evidence. The failure of the city’s representative to even move the court to address its much desired fifty-foot barrier demonstrates the feeble ground upon which the plaintiff stands. As Ian Freeman argued in favor of his motion to dismiss and not waste any more of the court’s time, he referenced the unwillingness by the city’s representative to negotiate the matter with defendants prior to and after filing the action, to which Mr. Mullins’ passionately objected, resisting any discussion of negotiations (or lack thereof) before the court.
While it is unfortunate that all of those involved in this case — from “the city”, to their numerous witnesses on standby outside of the courtroom, to the defendants and our supporters — will have to take more time out of our lives to continue with this matter, it is promising that as more information comes to light, the weaker the position of “the city” appears. Mr. Mullins and the behind-the-scenes forces forwarding this legal adventure are effectively achieving the goals of Robin Hood and the Merry (wo)Men, as all three parking enforcers were not issuing tickets during the time that they spent occupying the courthouse this afternoon and into the evening. You would think that the Crown would have taken advantage of the time that they had Robin Hood’s associates preoccupied in the royal court to write the parking tickets that the city found it worth citing were decreasingly issued since the peacefully resistant activity ramped up around the turn of the new year.
Keep an eye out for the Merry (wo)Men on the streets of Keene, continuing to fill expired parking meters for the good people as the legal crusade continues to drag on.
Coverage of today’s hearing has been published by WMUR, in addition to live tweeting during the hearing by the Keene Sentinel’s Jacqueline Palochko. Full video of the court hearing is here.