[In the note below I chat with Elizabeth Miller, cited to city court in Chattanooga for having a noncompliant yard in St. Elmo, nestled at the foot of Lookout Mountain. I address a situation without all the facts, but offer a hasty word of encouragement about court appearances and taking a cheerful perspective in defense of individuality. — DJT]
By David Tulis
Dear Elizabeth, just having come across your story, I am not sure of its parts nor how exactly the man writing the citation perceives your backyard and the litter alleged to be in it.
Any decision out of city court can be appealed de novo (anew) as it is not a real or constitutional court, but a corporation court. The judge is finder of fact and finder of law, and the setting is informal. It is not a court of record. Whatever happens can be wiped out, and you restart in Circuit court with a new, a fresh, case.
One option would be to “waive the court” to have the city actually sue you. Then you have a chance give your defense before 12 of your peers, and can defy the claim against you if you have a preponderance of the evidence (51 percent or more).
The case against you is civil, not criminal, so don’t worry about the prospect of jail or imprisonment. The author of the citation represents the interests of the city, the dignity of the city, and somehow you have offended it (through him, its agent).
A defense of your property before the sessions judge could be in the direction of poetry. Your house and its back yard reflect the genius and quirkiness of Chattanooga. The Gig City is so wonderful that it allows individual expression, as does the Internet for which it has become famous. Your individuality, your big letters, your fence, show your individual character and interests, thanks to God who made you. Your property reflects your particularity, your artistic nature, your whimsy, your earnest connection with place and certain odd things that are entirely innocent.
The things to which the city objects are your personal property, scavenged from a roadside, offending to no one; they are innocent, quirky, wholly paid for and harmless. They are different, to be sure, they are odd; but they are simply a colorful aspect of city life that the inspector is just going to have to accept, as he lives in the city (maybe) as do you, and you all live in the city together. The city is full of people who are DIFFERENT, and it is best for the interest in harmony to accept people who are different, odd, a little weird.
Your defense is that you have offended no one (did any fellow resident complain, or just the agent of the city corporation?). The offense is that you are being an individual and are not part of mass man or a dweller in a socialized public housing unit, but a house holder and city dweller acting not in bad faith, but in GOOD FAITH in everything that pertains to you and your property.
You can try this line of discussion with the sessions court judge, or with 12 of your peers. A trial is not as terrifying as you suppose, and your salvation in the matter will rest with people very much like you.
Don’t worry about a little fine. Have fun. Declare yourself. Tell a newspaper reporter about your case and tell him to sit in.
This links are potentially interesting, but of no use to you today:
[Shortly before her hearing, Elizabeth Miller was told that if she took down a pallet fence in her back yard she would settle the accusations against her, according to her post on Facebook. Please like Nooganomics.com on Facebook.]