By Johnnie Belle Reagan
I just read the latest article in the Palestine Herald Press about Jerry Laza’s dealing with City of Palestine. I am convinced they do not want me to have a garden this year. Whenever I reserve a day to work it, they publish some propaganda piece that would cause Molly Ivins to fall off the wagon. It is extremely obvious that the reporter has no real clue about facts in the current lawsuit and Court proceedings.
More troublesome than the lazy reporting is that the article seems to be goading Judge Phifer to take action. They insinuate that Laza is ignoring a court order. If you have kept up it is clear to see the case has been a travesty of justice with very little attention given to the law. The article fails to ask and answer the simplest of obvious questions. For instance, how was the City Attorney Ron Stutes able to rack up $400,000 in billing for his law firm Potter Minton on a case that sources tell us he stated he could get done for $20,000?
The local paper never mentions the pending Appeal which is currently on a stay due to Laza’s Bankruptcy proceedings. DO YOU KNOW HOW THE APPEAL PROCESS WORKS? Disturbingly the article never points out that if Laza wasn’t just an average citizen he would have been able to file a Supersedes Bond and put any action of District Court on hold until the Appeal is decided. It never states the fact the Appeal doesn’t look good for the City due to the fact Ron Stutes himself admitted under oath on June 8th of 2018 that he was never given permission to file the case.
Lawyering 101 says you can’t file a lawsuit for a client that never hired you regardless if they didn’t tell you to stop. Although in Texas recently the dead have hired attorneys, but that is another story and a major complaint with the Texas Bar Association. Maybe a deceased mayor or city council member told Stutes to sue Laza. Did Ron Stutes attend any seances before the case was filed?
Also never mentioned is the Civil Rights violation Laza filed the Federal Court in Tyler that is also on a temporary hold due to the Bankruptcy. In that lawsuit Ron Stutes, City Manager Mike Alexander and the Council Members from 2016/2017 are named as defendants. Surely that information would be interesting to someone. From everything that I have read on the Facebook support page, Lawnmower Man Palestine, TX, Laza has a good chance of proving his claims.
Proceeding, motions and filings are usually public information that can be obtained through the District Court Clerk’s office. Anyone can get a copy. It really doesn’t take much effort to write a fact-based story with all the information over the last 3 years. I really want to know more about why the City of Palestine paid former City Manager Mike Alexander to quit. If I could get paid to quit, I would do it daily. From sources it may have been over the fact that the affidavit that Attorney Ron Stutes submitted as evidence to prove he had permission was a paper that Alexander signed but never read. Unfortunately, Laza’s Attorney James Mosser was not able to question Alexander. Alexander never had to verify or testify to that Affidavit. He left town before Court resumed after a 29-day postponement and the Judge Phifer would not allow him to be subpoenaed back to Palestine. Coincidence?
Also interesting to some might be the recent case of Timbs vs. State of Indiana where the Supreme Court ruled against State and Local governments Civil Forfeiture Laws. This ruling will stop excessive fines. I would say that a fine of $27,375 dollars for a rat harborage where no rat was ever found is extreme. That amount is included in the total amount of $164,000 in fines for ordinance violation. That amount seems to fit excessive.
Even more interesting is how the article skips right over the statement from Laza that he has been unable to move any mowers since his work truck was repossessed. What? Once again due to the Bankruptcy that Laza was forced to file on August 2, 2018 because City Attorney Ron Stutes filed a motion being heard on August 3 to have Laza’s property taken into receivership, his buildings locked and him arrested. Without being able to put up the cash bond, Bankruptcy was Laza’s only choice. It was well within the City’s ability not to require the bond, unfortunately they showed no mercy.
Mostly, let us not forget the District Court should have never proceeded with trial because the entire Case was moved to Federal Court on September 18, 2017 by Ron Stutes and never brought back to District. It still remains in Federal Court. How can that even happen?
Ron Stutes is no-longer the Attorney for the City of Palestine. He was fired on March 8th, 2019. Way too late to help Jerry Laza. I am only scratching the surface of the unlawful case. There is a tremendous amount of information out there and the Palestine Herald Press still does really irresponsible lazy reporting. Is the reporter or the paper having a hard time understand unlawful and unfair? Did they completely sleep through the last 3 years? It makes me wonder if basic reading skills are a challenge.