Homeowner Carol Gaddy is in Sequatchie County jail in Dunlap, Tenn., on a charge of contempt before Circuit Court judge Rusty Graham, who is hearing her claims against the city inspection and feared seizure of her house.
By David Tulis / Hot News Talk Radio AM 1240 FM 101.1
Mrs. Gaddy, 69, and her husband, Thomas, refuse to allow an inspection of their residence in (or near) Dunlap. The city is fighting to access the property, which the couple has shielded from attempted seizure by a chain link fence. City government is reportedly keen on using the property in connection with a greenway along a creek just opposite the Gaddy property.
The confrontation occurred Thursday with Judge Graham telling Mrs. Gaddy, “Be quiet. I’m trying to tell you something,” according to June Griffin of Dayton, a Gaddy supporter who attended.
“He said, ‘Are you calling me a liar?’” Mr. Gaddy says. “Like that, you know? He was kind of hostile about it. She said, ‘No, sir.’ And she kept on trying to explain it to him, so he said, ‘I’m going to fine you a hundred dollars,’ and then she kept on talking, and he said, ‘I’m going to give you one day in jail.’ And she said something else, asked some questions, so he said, ‘Make that two days.’ She didn’t do nothing bad on him. He’s just a hostile judge, I guess.”
The Gaddys have been under a $1,500 penalty per month now for about two months, Mrs. Griffin said.
The city’s interest is being furthered by attorney Stephen Greer. The case had been in Chancery Court before judge Jeff Stewart.
Mrs. Gaddy didn’t raise her voice, did not speak disrespectfully to the judge but at the point of the explosion, had been insisting on speaking, Mrs. Griffin said.
A summary judgment hearing is set Dec. 8, Mr. Gaddy says. He says the city is in breach of contract for the repair of damage caused by the city. “They keep on messing us, trying to destroy it and everything,” Mr. Gaddy says in a phone interview.
No settlement is in view because the city demands an inspection by its official while the Gaddys would allow an inspection by a neutral expert.
Historic house under repair
The Gaddys have been fixing up the historic house for nearly 20 years, one built right after the war to prevent Southern independence by a judge.
City governments have only civil power, but no criminal statute or common law crime enforcement authority, according to Tennessee supreme court cases such as Chattanooga v. Davis (2001) and Chattanooga v. Myers (1990). However, a contempt proceeding allows a judge, even in a civil matter, to impose a criminal sanction of jail upon an individual.
“We are senior citizens and we wanted to do [repairs] out of our pocket,” said Mrs. Gaddy to Chattanooga’s TV3. The city ordered a stop to the repairs, filing a lawsuit calling the house “dilapidated and dangerous.” City officials say a licensed inspector helped them come to that conclusion, but Mrs. Gaddy says an inspector has not been inside the house, and is not welcome in.
The fight is more than a year old. “No, they’re in violation of all sorts of city codes,” Mr. Greer the attorney said. “They’re in the flood way and all kinds of problems with what they’re trying to do. The chancellor said we could inspect and she will not allow it we will let him deal with that.”
In November 2015 a TV reporter was given a tour of the house. “The Gaddys walked Channel 3 through the home to show us it has working heating and air. The home had running water as well. ‘We think that he wants our beautiful creek property to make a park out of it and put out picnic tables out there because behind us ***. That is the greenway,’ said Carol Gaddy.”
Sources: Woman at center of greeway project dispute to serve 2 days in custody, WRCBTV.com, Nov. 15, 2016
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Tell the lady she has a constitutional right to a jury trial on her criminal contempt charge.She must demand it.
Yes, cities are civil and cannot do state law. They have no immunity trying to enforce criminal statute.
They cannot make a contract with the sheriff or session court. In common law, a civil dispute never becomes a criminal matter. John, right. You have the right to a jury trial.
Criminal cases must follow Frank Barrett v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson county. Anything from a city limits must go to circuit court.
A case from a sessions court with an adverse decision is triable de novo (new) in circuit court. A sessions judge has civil authority only, and cannot dole out any penalty above $50 and no criminal punishment.
Cities are all civil. They enforce civil laws, not criminal statute.
One last thing. This point has not been argued. But if a city is not free to enforce statute within its boundaries, neither does it have authority to adopt international building codes inside a city limits. Thhey are barred from making ordinances mirroring international building codes.