by Garret Ean
Feb 16 2014
Thursday’s Keene Sentinel featured an update on the Robin Hood saga penned by Kyle Jarvis. The article overviews how the case is being prepped for presentation to the New Hampshire supreme court, where before being scheduled requires both parties to consider the possibility of mandatory mediation. The mediation process would involve a closed-door meeting between both parties to agree on a legal compromise. Mediation is certainly a fitting alternative to the courts for conflict resolution when a conflict exists, but as is uniquely the case in Keene, city officials can’t cite a single grievance against the Robin Hooders collectively beyond expressing a desire that they do not be in the proximity of or communicate with parking enforcers. For some individual Robin Hooders, no specific issues have been raised at all, and considering that Pete Eyre is still named in the suit when he has at no time been associated with Robin Hood of Keene demonstrates the indiscriminate nature of the city’s straw-grasping lawsuit. Early in the suit, the city requested the ability to add defendants to the case at will, but apparently ceased its hunt for the underground Robin Hooders after at least two individuals officially requested attachment to the suit and were denied, despite one presenting evidence of longtime participation in the activity.
While the ruling from judge John Kissinger was reasonable, a further contemplation of the case may have demonstrated the need for a less traditional ruling, which may have alleviated some of the issues that the legal department of “city of Keene” continues to press today. Though the judge never authorized “harassment and intimidation”, the ruling states only that the facts presented did not constitute any actionable activity. Yet the city’s attorney asserted this about the ruling: “The Order holds that the individual protesters have no duty to be reasonable in their actions and conduct directed toward public employees while doing their jobs … that the individual protesters are allowed to interfere, harass, and intimidate public employees while doing their jobs … (and) that the individual protesters may engage in inappropriate and unreasonable actions and conduct directed at public employees while doing their jobs.” Not only is it unkind to mischaracterize constitutionally protected speech as “harassment and intimidation,” but it is also a distortion of the actual text of the ruling. Perhaps mediation would have been most pertinent prior to the many hours spent in court, where it could have been cleared up ahead of time that Robin Hooders do not engage in harassment and intimidation. Of course, when myself I tried mediate with the city’s attorney prior to court, my camera was stolen for two months under the guise of “illegal wiretapping”.
Would the perpetually aggrieved parties continue to hold on to their animosity if the judge had instead ordered all individuals in dispute to engage in a group hug in front of the Cheshire court? Or perhaps we all could settle our differences during a friendly pizza party? While some unfortunate animosity continues following Robin Hood and the Merry People’s victory, many in the community have expressed increased support and congratulations in the wake of the superior court level win.
The legal mediation requested is infeasible considering the numerous parties to the case and their different goals and resources. Some individuals, such as Kate, no longer live in the area, and Pete is not represented by the attorney who is defending the others. All attempts to remove himself from the case were blocked despite the city presenting almost no evidence of direct involvement in Robin Hooding, and the appeal retains his name as one the city ambiguously takes issue with.
Fortunate for Robin Hooders and less so for the city, it is unclear what the case is even about at this time. The city had been seeking a 50 foot buffer zone, which was reduced to a requested 30 feet by the end of the trial, on top of a request that Robin Hooders do not communicate with parking enforcers. During closing arguments though, hired attorney Charles Bauer seemed intuitively aware that his client’s case was going nowhere and began suggesting that 30 feet is not set in stone, and that the court can set whatever number of feet it feels is just. More suggestions offered were to concede that dialogue with parking enforcers itself may not be curtailed, but perhaps dialogue that is intended to harass and intimidate should be, without explaining clearly what constituted such activity. The statements made on behalf of the city’s legal department obfuscate the fact that New Hampshire already has both Harassment and Criminal Threatening statutes which already prohibit the unsubstantiated allegations floated by city officials.
As has always been the case, I will continue to welcome dialogue related to Robin Hooding from anyone, be they city employees, their friends, supporters, or detractors. To provide a safe space for communication, I would also happily engage in off-the-record dialogue. But one thing that certainly won’t occur is any of the Merry People (or Pete) agreeing to confidentially curtail their rights when they are not in the wrong.