Carol Gaddy of Dunlap is accusing circuit court judge Thomas W. Graham of favoritism, illegal communications and the furthering of a fraudulent claim by the city.
The Sequatchie County woman is in a two-year struggle to secure her property, under siege by Dunlap officials in the great north-south valley west of Chattanooga that gave national anti-establishment politician Donald Trump nearly 80 percent of the vote.
By David Tulis / Noogaradio AM 1240 FM 101.1
The city demands an inspection that she speculates is precursor to an act of eminent domain or a forced easement for the benefit of a walking track that exists across the way from a creek that runs along her property line.
A chancery court ruling bars the family from making any construction or structural improvements on the land and the War to Prevent Southern Independence-era house, which my tour Saturday indicates is a family gift and passion.
Mrs. Gaddy also says Dunlap, served in its claims by attorney Stephen Greer, is acting outside its jurisdiction because the Gaddy acre along Coops Creek has not been annexed.
She was jailed in a courtroom confrontation Thursday in which Judge Graham fined her at least F$100 and put her in a cell two days for pointing an accusatory finger at him and declaring, “I will see you, mister, do 10 years in federal prison.”
Requests for comment were left this morning with circuit clerk Karen Millsaps for Judge Graham and at the Dunlap law office phone extension of Mr. Greer. Mrs. Millsaps said later that the Gaddy case is not in circuit, but in chancery, and that Judge Graham “is only hearing the case by interchange.” Circuit court has no files on the case, Mrs. Millsaps says. Interchange is not a term in Black’s Law Dictionary, and the chancery judge C. Jeffrey Stewart evidently recused himself.
Mrs. Gaddy gives an interview to me on Noogaradio on Nov. 14, appearing in parts 2 and 3 of a four-part show.
City operating fraudulently, lot not annexed?
It seems like a fairly obvious point to learn whether a piece of property has been absorbed into a municipality through annexation. It’s obvious, says Mrs. Gaddy and her husband, Thomas, and son, Kelly, all of whom are barred under a “no work” injunction.
She shows me a copy of a letter from Vince McGrath, historian and archivist at the department of state in Nashville, that “definitively proves,” Mrs. Gaddy says, “that the city of Dunlap has defrauded thousands of people all around this city for 40 years in paying property tax that they did not owe. Because the city claim that they annexed us and all these other owners *** in Aug. 2, 1972, and the letter I hold in my hand gives legal proof, according to the state of Tennessee legal archives, that no such annexation ever took place.”
The McGrath letter says there was, in the words of Mrs. Gaddy, “never any legal annexation started and accomplished by the city of Dunlap Aug. 2, 1972, which is when the city says it annexed us, but it did not.”
City government has offered no proof of annexation on the 1972 date in view, she says, and that she has been thwarted in attempting to present her evidence of extra-territorial action.
Judicial ethics come into view
The rules of judicial ethics forbid what they call ex parte communications. An ex parte contact is one shared between a judge and one side in a dispute outside the presence of the other party.
The case before Judge Graham involves two parties, Carol Gaddy on one side, acting pro se (for herself, sans attorney), and a municipal corporation, City of Dunlap, served by attorney Stephen Greer.
It is illegal and looks unjust and partial for the judge to speak with or have writings with one party, and not the other.
Exhibit A in her charge of ex parte communication is a faxed letter that begins:
Shortly after you and I talked this morning and you set the motion for summary judgment for Dec. 10 ***
If Mrs. Gaddy were not present for that chat, it would have been ex parte, and violative of the Tennessee Code of Judicial Ethics if it had gone beyond the exceptions cited in rule No 2.9 of the code of judicial conduct.
The rules allow one-sided conversations “for scheduling, administrative, or emergency purposes” that do not deal with substantive issues in a case. They are allowed only if “the judge reasonably believes that no party will gain procedural, substantive, or tactical advantage as a result.”
The letter has a “cc” indicating a copy was sent to the Gaddys. But it lacks the standard signed statement of “service” to the opposing party to keep up at least the appearance of fair treatment and notice. Mrs. Gaddy says she has repeatedly not received proper service of filings in City of Dunlap v. Gaddy.
Jurisdiction can always be challenged in a civil or criminal case. The duty to prove jurisdiction is not on the defendant, but upon the city corporation to prove. It is impotent to act outside it jurisdiction, and any act outside of lawful authority is an act on a state or city actor’s personal capacity.
Protections against arbitrary private acts by officials
Liability for torts or crimes against a citizen attach to individual actors absent jurisdiction. The Tennessee oppression statute forbids any state actor from knowingly imposing his will on a citizen and against his exercise of constitutionally protected rights apart from warrant or lawful authority.
Probably the best remedy for Mrs. Gaddy would be the filing of an administrative notice, which would deprive town officials of the defense of not acting “knowingly” to her hurt.
Once notified of the law and facts (without any arguments being made in the notice), officials have no protection for continuing a pattern of harassment. Administrative notice sucks out of the room all the healthy air of “good will” and “good faith.” An administrative notice leaves attorney Greer and the town fathers he represents without protections against charges of oppressive, harassing acts done in “bad faith.”