This is Episode16 in the story of the formation, rise and fall of the little education collective that used to exist up here on our mountain. I wrote and posted this account three years ago on my blog and then pulled it off because someone whose name I had not changed, objected. Now I have changed both name of the little school itself, and the names of everyone who might be negatively impacted, and plan to re-post the story, one episode per day, until all 32 are again on my blog.
Pay to Play
As unfair as the whole sordid affair was, it was our sordid affair and no one else was going to fight it for us. Bart’s profoundly extreme suggestion was too bizarre for words, but the reality is that bizarre acts of uncivilized retribution are a dime a dozen in our culture, so it wasn’t as though Bart was wasn’t thinking that which had been thought before. Just not by us.
So when we met with Barry Vogel, it wasn’t to expect charity because downtown Ukiah, coincidentally in the same locale as the courthouse, was was a hotbed of lawyers’ offices and any one of them could have handled the Corrine Chintz matter with one hand tied behind his or her back. The thing about Barry was, we liked him and we thought he had a certain amount of sympathy for us. How much that would impact the rate at which he worked was impossible to determine.
This is what Barry explained to us: “I plan to charge 150 dollars per hour. That is for time spent on the project, which means research time, preparing court papers, court time, travel time (unless I can coordinate with another case, and then that cost is split), phone time, meeting with clients time, etc.” [If it remotely sounds expensive, imagine what we thought in the nineties.]
“I would like to receive a retainer of $7,500 to apply to the work I have done and will do until the amount is used up. I can send monthly statements. When we are down to $1,000 left I will request another amount as an additional retainer. The $150 per hour contemplates representing a group of you. That is not a per person charge.”
We knew we were in the big leagues now. We all had questions, and a lot of them were shared concerns. Here are some of those questions and answers that we brainstormed at Will’s house, the night we met as a group to discus strategy:
* Why can certain members of Bell Springs Collective be identified and not everyone? Why not all school board members?
“Chintz can determine who to sue. It is her choice to decide that. She may feel that only the persons who are named are responsible. The defendants (the people sued) could decide to counter sue for indemnity against the people who were or are part of Bell Springs or the school board and were not named by her.”
* How feasible is it for some of us to represent ourselves?
“It is difficult to represent yourself. Federal Court is more formal and less forgiving than Mendocino County Superior Court. Since none of you are lawyers, you could only represent yourself as an individual. No one can represent someone else unless you are a lawyer. That means you would all have to stand up and speak for yourselves and submit your own written documents. The documents required are peculiar in nature, and require certain forms.”
* If we do sue her for malicious prosecution and win, would her land be protected? What kind of damages might be awarded?
“You can sue her for malicious prosecution after there is a final judgment in your favor in this case. Her land may be protected under the homestead exemption laws up to a value of either $75,000 or $100,000 depending on the category into which she falls. The damages that might be awarded are generally in relation to the economic hardship it causes you, and the extent she was determined to be malicious. The dollar amount is a guess at this time.”
* Under what conditions can attorneys’ fees and court costs be awarded?
“I am not aware of how attorneys’ fees could be awarded to you at this time. That is something that I will have to research. I am not hopeful on this issue. Court costs, which mean filing fees, deposition fees, etc. are generally awarded to the winner at the end of the case.”
* In the event we lose, how would the court determine who pays what?
“If you lose, the court has several options to determine who pays what. Realistically, if there is judgment I would push that it be paid by the Laytonville School District insurance. None of it should be paid by any of you. Joint and several liability means that the winner can get money from whoever has it, up to the full amount of the judgment. Individual liability means that each person who has been determined to be liable would be adjudged to owe a specific amount. The judge usually makes the decisions on who is obligated to pay what.”
* Does it matter if you signed anything when served? Several people did not.
“I don’t think it matters if you signed anything when you were served. Proof of service is filled out by the person who serves you. If some of you did sign something, I would like to know what it is.”
I would have signed anything, if it meant getting out of this legal entanglement, but that seemed unlikely, as long as Imika was determined to follow though on her threat to close the school.