By Sherry Gros
Freelance Writer for Highland Park Mobile AL
Meeting “AH”. It started with “You don’t own the land.” AH and I stared into a drained 25 acre lake that their HOA interim President, AD with EM had drained a few days before. I was there to consult with my conservation officer at the time regarding the knee deep dead fish in the basin. I later learned from the conservation officer that AD was there to run him off and basically bad mouth me. Their HOA is an unincorporated HOA from a neighboring subdivision that doesn’t own title to the land they drained. His response was “Rules of Repose.” I stared at him in silent disbelief. He put his arm on my shoulder and with a paternal sounding authority looked down at me and said, “It’s okay we’re going to work it out. I’ve talked to Mindy. We’re going to work it all out.” “Who’s Mindy?” I snapped? I’m irritated at this point by his condescending tone with me. “That’s your lawyer.”
Now my hair is on fire. I’m an old woman. I’m not as patient as I was in my younger days. Why is he talking to my attorney without my knowledge and why is he on a first name basis with her? After all, I didn’t know her name was Mindy and I’m paying her 250.00 and hour. I call her as soon as I get home. “Attorney B have you been speaking with the defendants?” “I have,” was her cheerful reply.
My impression of AH is he’s a sweet talker. I got the feeling he could talk me out of my dentures if I didn’t pay attention. “Attorney B, I don’t feel comfortable with this, from now on I want to be present for any conversations you have with the defendants.” I tell her matter-of-factly. She agrees and we hang up. I don’t follow much what my attorneys are doing. She was no exception, I paid her to do a job then figured she’d call me when she needs to. That’s the way I was taught to deal with lawyers and this way has always worked for me in the past. Somehow, this one was different. It was “complicated.” After about 18 months of hearings I finally asked her to withdraw after a hearing where the judge explained “This is a Gordian knot…” and when he said it, he made a kind of an eyeroll that caused his head to circle the globe. He added, “…and someone is going to run out of money..” Well, it was five defendants to one plaintiff and that plaintiff is me. I did the math. I saw the writing on the wall at that very moment and decided it was time to go pro se. The case had gotten costly to the tune of over $30,000.00 and it had become convoluted beyond belief.
Nobody wants to have to go Pro Se except maybe those exceptional individuals who are quite sure of themselves. I am NOT that individual. But here we are Pro Se, digesting the concepts, theories, and case precedents of: “Rules of Repose”, “Standing”, “Defacto Corporations”, “Mob Rule”, “Quiet Title”, Quit claim, Adverse Possession. It’s like trying to chew dried up old jerky from a jar. “I might need a little something to drink with this I thought.
After presenting my case as best I could at this last hearing and trying to stay focused on the topic of “standing” the questions are asked by the Court do I have standing to bring my case as an individual pro se. Do I have an individual claim that is different or unique from what a class action suit could bring. I’m a resident of HP subdivision my covenants apply. If the covenants are broken I can bring suit. The neighboring HOA has drained the lake denying me free access according to my covenants and damaged the dam beyond repair. But everyone in the HP subdivision has lost free access too. So, what damage or claim is unique to me individually? I would say it is the savagery with which the defendants came after me with their mob mentality. That the defendants groomed a mostly unsuspecting public, through meetings and private social media groups to their way of thinking about themselves and me. When I wanted to run a lawful HPca the HOA did not call for détente. Tthey instead called me to join them then attacked me publicly when I could not join them. They have brow beat me every day in one way or another and I have stood up to them every time in private and public. I have endured language over and over that would have driven most to retreat. The group insulted, berated and attacked me based on what AH, EW, and AD told them about me in their scheduled “meetings.” They intimidated me in every way. They threatened me and attacked me. They pinned my car in so that I was delayed and terrified for over an hour by a man who was inflamed at me after one of their HOA meetings or private Facebook meetings. They made it clear in writing that if I went over to the West Park again they would call all the neighbors and block me in again. That damage is unique to me. They did not do that to anyone else. What else is unique to me is that I am qualified unlike anyone else in the neighborhood with my education in environmental studies, and background experience in nonprofit administration to manage this job successfully. I have lost free access to volunteer or operate the organization a group of us set up under emergency corporation law during the court proceedings. I have standing because the HOA group have attacked my character in public causing people to doubt my ability to run the HPca. I have been robbed of the joy of exercising my talents and training. I have standing because I am the only one who is acutely aware of how to fix the dam but the Lakeview West HOA blocks me with hostilities at every turn. This is a source of not only daily frustration, but of emotional and physical pain for me. That I am denied by the defendants through their public railings to properly process, administer with free access to the organization that administers to the lake that directly affects my neighborhood and property value. That I do not have free access to the organization known as HPca, that I am most uniquely qualified and have taken up responsibility for and have paid for out of my own funds. That I am not allowed, by them, to operate lawfully under it’s articles of incorporation. That it is only through the HPca that I can operate lawfully to repair the dam and publicly administer the lake. That I am being forced to accept terms of a mediation that is unlawful under my bylaws and articles of incorporation. That I am concerned that the judge thinks that “everyone should be able to vote” or “that I did not properly set up” the current HPca Board of Directors. That the voting pool is now tainted beyond repair by the defendants grooming of the public through their perspective instead of the law daily pumping out misinformation regarding the HPCA. And now so many years of defending myself from the HOA I suffer trauma bonding and have to learn how to get out of that cycle. These claims are individual to me. Was I able to bring my idea to the Judge so he would be willing to or could hear my case? No. This case was steered. Could a lawyer have helped me get through the motion to dismiss any better than I did myself? Unfortunately, not with the lawyer I had. Not one attorney would take my case after I fired my attorney for now working in my best interest. I asked why, One attorney responded “because this case was run into the ditch.”
In any event dismissing the case will release the warring parties back into the wild to continue the battle to “save the dam, lake, corporation” and grapple the Gordian Knot with cries of “It’s not your land” and “Rules of Repose” In the meantime no credible professional is going to touch repairs to the dam until ownership is established.