These issues become particularly troubling in light of our reports from earlier this week (see here and here) about a letter from attorney David Gespass, who reviewed the Riley/Duke file when it was sealed. The file showed, Gespass stated, that no summons was issued in the case until October 16, 2013, long after Officer Mike DeHart had allegedly "served" us via an unconstitutional traffic stop. The file also showed that as of October 31, the date of Gespass' letter, we had not been served--by DeHart or anyone else. (For the record, there were no other service attempts after the DeHart episode on September 29, so that means we never were served--with or without a summons.)
We will address the legal implications of all this in a moment, but first, let's look at the invasive nature of Alabama deputies' actions against us--and the information comes from the sheriff department's own records.
What did deputies do on our property while trying to "serve" us (even though no summons had been issued) from September 24 to September 29, 2013? Why were deputies so frantic during this six-day period, given that Alabama law generally allots at least 120 days (four months) for service of process in a civil case?
Let's look at what the log reveals. And keep in mind that each visit that we witnessed involved two or three deputies and multiple vehicles. On at least one occasion, they parked an SUV at an angle blocking our driveway, as if to ensure that dangerous criminals could not escape the premises.
(The full log can be viewed at the end of this post. The Gespass letter also can be viewed at the end of this post.):
* On 9/24/13 at 12:36 hours--Deputies look inside our garage-door windows.
* On 9/24/13 at 15:44 hours--Deputies again look inside our garage-door windows.
* On 9/26/13 at 19:56 hours (after dark)--Deputies checked the power meter at the back of our house, opened our mail box to check for mail, and again looked inside our garage-door windows. Being after dark, this was one of multiple occasions in which they shined lights in our windows.
* On 9/26/13 at 20:50 hours (after dark)--This was at almost 9 p.m., and deputies again shined lights in our windows.
* On 9/28/13 at 10:44 hours--Deputies again look inside our garage-door windows.
* On 9/28/13 at 19:11 hours--This probably was after dark or near dark. More looking in the garage, more shining of lights in our windows.
* On 9/29/13 at 12:34 hours--Deputy admits on log to conducting surveillance on our house for approximately two hours. (Do they do this in investigations of a potential drug-trafficking ring? Probably not, and this involved civil papers that were nowhere near the deadline for service.) More looking in the garage.
I'm not an expert on the law that governs process servers (deputies or otherwise) in the course of their work. And I understand that they have a right to knock on the door in an effort to get attention. But do they have a right to walk all around your house (front and back), to look inside your windows repeatedly (sometimes with flashlights), to check your power meter, to check your mailbox, to come multiple times after dark?
Do citizens have at least some expectation of privacy, on their own property, when they are the targets of process servers?
In a country where we seem to treasure "Second Amendment remedies," is it wise to allow this kind of invasion on private property? How many citizens would have taken a pistol or rifle and shot one of these deputies at some point in this process?
I'm a liberal, and I'm not particularly fond of guns--although I'm becoming more and more fond of them with each passing day. Would I blame a citizen who took matters into his own hands against this kind of wildly invasive activity? No, I wouldn't.
Am I starting to see the value of "Second Amendment remedies," especially when cops and the courts have proven they won't protect your rights? Yes, I am.
That brings us back to the shocking revelations in the David Gespass letter. A summons is an extremely important document in any civil case; it's the piece of paper that starts a lawsuit. If a summons has not been issued and served on defendants, the court has no authority to hear the case.
At the time of all this activity on our property, there was no lawsuit, and without a summons, deputies had nothing to "serve." That means they had no legal authority to be on our property--converting their actions from "law-enforcement work" to regular criminality. They probably committed criminal trespass, criminal surveillance, and possibly other state-law violations. Tampering with our mailbox likely constitutes a violation of federal law.
Essentially, we were being terrorized by packs of criminals for six days--all under the guise of "serving" us with a lawsuit that did not exist, with no summons call us to court or creating court authority to hear the case.