Carol Gaddy was freed Friday from jail after having served 14 days on a contempt charge because she refused to relent under an order by a judge who took up the cause of her enemy while pretending she had breached the dignity and decorum of his court.
Mrs. Gaddy, a Dunlap resident, defied demands for more than two years by Dunlap city government to “inspect” her house, a property along a reedy bend in Coops Creek. Her refurbished house in the small farm town is a carbine’s shot away from city hall and the city attorney’s office at a stoplight.
By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 92.7 FM
She had been jailed in solitary confinement two weeks in Sequatchie County jail and five days in Silverdale detention facilities in Hamilton County, where she had been arrested on a failure-to-appear charge in an unrelated case.
“They want to get rid of this case and close this case out,” says Mrs. Gaddy’s son, Kelly, quoting a judge. “That was the judge’s words on the bench today. ‘We think that cooler heads are [advancing] here and we’re hoping you guys can get this stuff worked out.’”
Says family friend June Griffin of Dayton: “It was a morning of thanksgiving and relief. And she is home, and I was so proud of her. She’s been under solitary confinement, which is absolutely horrendous, given the charges. And I thank the Lord for everybody who did anything.”
In the conflict over her house, city government stepped beyond its legal authority, disregarded its own rules and seems to have operated in bad faith against the 69-year-old former real estate agent, a devout Christian, and her husband, Thomas, 70, a retired carpenter. Its legal argument was that municipal necessity trumps God-given constitutionally guaranteed inalienable and inherent rights such as the sanctity of private property privately used.
Messages sent requesting comment from Mayor Dwain Land, who pressed the case against the Gaddys, are not immediately returned.
“The judge gave her an immediate hearing on Friday,” says city attorney Stephen Greer, “and had to cancel a preset jury case to do so. As a result of an engineering report [the Gaddys] provided recently, the city agreed to accept that and drop the requirement of an inspection by the city building inspector. As a result, the judge dropped the contempt charge to which the city agreed. However, they still must obtain a building permit and comply with our flood ordinance before any construction can start.”
The judge who freed the feisty constitution-citing prisoner is the same one who ordered her to be arrested and jailed. The case against her had been filed in chancery court. But a judge there recused himself, and circuit court judge Thomas “Rusty” Graham “by interchange” took up the case in chancery and declared Mrs. Gaddy’s steadfastness in her rights contemptuous.
Judge Graham effectively took up the offense as alleged by the city and put his weight behind the city’s claims. He acted as if her resistance to demands for search without a warrant somehow offended the dignity of his court and the high honor of his bar. In finding her in contempt, he acted as a representative of the city — a kind of martyr on its behalf — rather than a defender of equity and the innocent. Judge Graham acted representatively rather than judicially.\
At least two petitions came up in circuit court on Friday, including a petition for writ of habeas corpus which won Mrs. Gaddy her quick hearing. But the Gaddys got no fresh eyes on the case, because there sat Judge Graham.
Personal interests may also have been at play in the prolonged fistfight. Mrs. Gaddy has said more than once that the men who were her enemies are town elites with personal affinities strengthened by life in church, politics, business and school-era friendships. Though hardly a feminist, she hints they are sexist males conspiring against an independent and vocal female.
Private ‘inspection’ report breaks logjam
The engineer’s report about the house at 1271 Main St. is by Barry Field of Crossville, Tenn., who inspected the house July 24 and “found nothing that was not 100% structurally sound.”
Accepting the report lets Dunlap secure its interest under police powers to maintain the health, welfare and safety of people residing within the city limit.
“They couldn’t just throw the white flag up,” says Mrs. Griffin, a southeast Tennessee activist for godly government and constitutional protections. “They accepted an official inspection that Carol and Thomas had paid for, and as far as I’m concerned Carol won her point in that she got to say who could come and go on her property. They are both out from under the arrest warrants, period. *** There were a lot of prayers that were answered.”
Oppression statute in view
The Gaddy’s 2 ½-year ordeal has come at huge personal cost and delayed their renovations, which came under a judicial ban that stood unmolested at Friday’s hearing. Russell Anne Swafford, representing the city, convinced Judge Graham to ignore other tendrils of the conflict such as the work ban.
The Gaddys have a multitude of grievances against the city, as Mrs. Gaddy outlines in her petition for writ of habeas corpus. These look backward, but forward toward and outline a course of litigation. The Gaddys may demand redress of grievances and compensation for their abuse, starting with the lack of due process at the city’s administrative level (Dunlap’s failure to obey the “exhaustion of administrative remedies” rule).
“The overrreach of this municipal government — it is coming directly from Mayor Dwain Land, who started this action and instead of his city attorney advising him, ‘Mr. Mayor, we have due process we have to meet on these ordinances,’ instead, he just told Sephen Greer to file a lawsuit in chancery court, and that’s what started it back in February 2015.”
Abuses for which there is not a clear remedy under U.S.C. title 42 nor the Tennessee oppression statute TCA 39-16-403 are the misfilings into chancery. The general assembly decrees in the city charter that all disputes under ordinance be heard in city court. Jailing a contender in a civil dispute in the wrong court is also extraordinary, especially when the defendant keeps pointing out defects in the city’s case. Insofar as Dunlap officials got notice, they cannot claim ignorance; the oppression statute requires knowingness and intentionality for criminal conviction.
Unresolved, also, is a huge question of Dunlap’s taxing authority and the city limit. Mrs. Gaddy in her researches says her property and those of potentially hundreds of other taxpayers are outside the city limit. If true, tax bills and seizures would be arguably an act of mass fraud. Did the city actually annex properties south of city hall? A sympathetic legislature passed a bill requiring cities to prove their borders when challenged, and Mrs. Gaddy has issued one.
People who persecute Christians enjoy the prospect of escaping blowback from their deeds. Because they’ve been saved from their sins, their victims are the object of God’s grace and likely to make their former oppressors the objects of their grace.
Though Mrs. Gaddy has filed civil action against her persecutors in federal court in Chattanooga, she is weary in combat. No doubt she has entertained the thought of leaving her persecutors to stand in the place where all God’s arrows fly, and to act with lenity in their favor rather than in turn hound them for oppression under state and federal law. As Christians, Mr. and Mrs. Gaddy have an interest in exhibiting grace, and showing a difference in action between the wicked and the godly, between the clod of earth and the diamond.
‘Belligerent claimant in person’
One more Gaddy grievance for which no financial compensation is possible is over the low regard courts and jailers have for pro se litigants — that is, people handling their own cases without legal counsel or without being represented by an attorney.
“Without benefit of counsel, you have a right by law to have an outside person who you choose and appoint to be your legal counsel assistant,” Mrs. Gaddy says, “who the people within the jail, when he brings typed papers that you must sign or him to take and file on your behalf, they must bring those people to your cell, and hand that back and forth. Some of the jail workers didn’t like that idea, and they really got more hostile about it as it went on.
“We pay for these courtrooms with our tax dollars,” Mrs. Gaddy says, “and we have a right to use these courtrooms across this state and across this country.”
Mrs. Gaddy is a remarkable person for persisting in her constitutionally guaranteed rights, holding forth as an example of what every earnest American should become when necessary. And that is: A belligerent claimant in person. Rights are not self-executing. They are established and executed by individuals in their flesh, in their person, by saying “No.” In other words, fighting is necessary. Without a fight, there is no right.
It is a maxim of law that if one does not defy a false claim against one’s rights the moment it is made, that one does not have that right after all (United States v. Johnson, 76 F. Supp. 538, 539 (D. Pa. 1947). Only by fighting does a free person maintain her freedom, even if she has to go to jail for it.