As Steve Conklin, his 84 year-old father, family, and around 50 friends from PCRLN and the occupy movement waited and worked in the cold rain and snow, saving whatever remnants of Satori Farm that could be loaded on trucks and put into storage that they could, word was received, about 2:10 p.m., that bankruptcy filings made this morning had automatically stayed the eviction. No court has granted relief at this point – it is a stay as a matter of law, and is expected to be addressed promptly. We expect that Conklin will be faced with eviction again soon.
Regardless of the thrust of this article – the fact that the eviction was put off – it was a truly inspiring to participate in the effort where those in attendance were united only by their humanity and sense of fairness that lay beneath all the things we experience as Americans, indeed as world citizens. Food was brought in, labor supplied, and the entire event was webcast live around the world, with viewers as far away as Sweden, France, and Denmark, and the support streamed in, and never let up among those in attendance. After the stay was announced, one of the viewers in San Francisco ordered in a celebratory pizza, and another streamed a message around the world from viewers and listeners everywhere to call the York County Sheriff – 717-771-9601 – and demand that he stop these unlawful efforts to evict Conklin and his family from their farm.
The mantra during the event was fairly simple – how can they take a man’s property without giving him a hearing? That is the basis of the entire effort – the sheriff, i.e., “the state”, is trying to take Conklin’s property without due process of law. We have discussed that basic concept very liberally here. The Supreme Court case is Hovey v. Elliot, 167 U.S. 409 (1897), and it states, in clear language, the following:
The fundamental conception of a court of justice is condemnation only after hearing. To say that courts have inherent power to deny all right to defend an action and to render decrees without any hearing whatever is, in the very nature of things, to convert the court exercising such an authority into an instrument of wrong and oppression, and hence to strip it of that attribute of justice upon which the exercise of judicial power necessarily depends.
The principle stated in this terse language lies at the foundation of all well-ordered systems of jurisprudence. Wherever one is assailed in his person or his property, there he may defend, for the liability and the right are inseparable. This is a principle of natural justice, recognized as such by the common intelligence and conscience of all nations. A sentence of a court pronounced against a party without hearing him, or giving him an opportunity to be heard, is not a judicial determination of his rights, and is not entitled to respect in any other tribunal.
Conklin has never had a hearing, and that is not in dispute. Judge Mariani did not even mention Hovey in dismissing Conklin’s case, despite the fact that Conklin quoted it to him too, repeatedly. The language is clear. By all right under the law, Conklin is the fee owner of that 112 acres known as Satori Farm. Our Supreme Court says so.
That is the principle that underlay the bankruptcy filings that effected the stay of the action. Conklin filed a bankruptcy of his own this morning in the bankruptcy court the federal building in Harrisburg. At some point, Conklin had also granted a lease of his property to Andy Ostrowski, who had represented Conklin in the past in the York County Courts in connection with these matters, and Ostrowski also filed a personal bankruptcy this morning, and delivered notice to the Sheriff of the filing.
It is not clear which filing stopped the action, and is presumed that both should have, but the right result has been achieved, and further actions will be forthcoming. Grenen and Birsic, in their haste to shut down Satori Farm, did not attempt to identify if there were any other interests in the land that they sought to take, and Steve Conklin by all right remains the owner in fee.
In the end, what happened at 2:15 p.m. today is only what must happen by operation of law, and is no sign that there is any real standing down in the efforts to get Satori Farm – we will provide you with the updates in these regards. For the time-being, the matter appears to be one for the bankruptcy court, which will likely entertain motions for relief from the stay.
Even if “they” were successful in carrying out their lawless plan, the message from today would still be a positive one. The course of conduct of these official, banks, and attorneys never suggested anything but its continuation, but the outpouring of support for Steve and his family has a life of its own, because of what unites it. Conklin was heard to say that taking him away by whatever means they intended to would only strengthen his voice, and it was shown today that Steve’s voice, and his principles, are what unite people around the world, regardless of political governance.
The rights stated in our Constitution – freedom to speak and to oppose, due process of law, equal protection, etc. – are not our rights because they were given to us, they are our rights because they are “inherent and inalienable”, i.e., they lie at the heart of our humanity. Unfortunately, the understanding of this concept only truly comes when it is “your” rights that are those being taken, and the support that Steve received shows that this is something that is capable of being understood without being experienced. The support alone is a victory.
As the old adage goes, you can take the Steve out of Satori Farm, but you can’t take the Satori Farm out of Steve. Steve’s personal mantra is that he will be heard, and today he was heard around the world, and has introduced the world to Satori Farm. The experience shows that there are things that unite and inspire in the face of lawlessness and oppression, and those things live for themselves.
The courts are supposed to protect all of it, and they aren’t. Why?