Archive for March, 2013

The Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution states:

“No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;”

and the Fourteenth Amendment declares,

“…No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

It seems clear to folks like us that the US Constitution demands equal treatment under the law. We believe that in West Texas the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments have routinely been violated by law enforcement officials in Ector County in that the Ector County Sheriff’s department has refused to equally enforce the law in Gardendale! To wit, a resident of Gardendale reported a criminal trespass on his land by representatives of Berry Petroleum. The Denver based out of state oil company insisted on erecting a privacy fence in front of a private memorial, known as The Berry Scar, to obscure its view from Highway 158. Ostensibly Berry Petroleum stated the purpose of the fence was to ‘protect’ a tank battery immediately behind the Berry Scar. The Berry Scar did in fact, mock Berry Petroleum and offered a stinging insult to what they are doing in Gardendale. All perfectly legal under the First Amendment, I might add. Apparently the existing, dilapidated fence around the tank battery in place for almost two years, known to be in need of repair for at least a year, wasn’t adequate and it was coincidental that Berry needed to erect a privacy screen in front of The Berry Scar with its biting message, thereby obscuring the view. The deputy responding to the call stated it was a ‘civil issue’ and that nothing could be done. The landowner contends that the fence being constructed was well away from the tank battery and Berry’s lawful access did not remotely apply. The Ector County Sheriff’s department refused to investigate further as to whether or not a crime was being committed. In other words, the landowner would be forced to go to civil court in order to have a judge determine whether or not a crime had been committed! This is outrageous and effectively prevents the landowner from being given his constitutional due process and equal protection under the law. A citizen whose only hope is to tangle with a multibillion dollar oil company (with hundreds of millions dollars in funds to fight with) in civil court in order to find out whether or not a crime is being committed has certainly not enjoyed ‘equal protection under the law. After the outcry Berry offered to build a fence that would not violate the landowner’s First Amendment rights, and with his permission, proceeded to construct a barbed wire fence. Wags might posit, “The system worked. The parties worked it out between themselves.” Frankly, we tire of hearing government officials and law enforcement officers abdicating their oath to defend the constitution by encouraging us to ‘work it out among ourselves’. We are not children on a playground fussing over who gets to go first in a game. We don’t want to ‘work it out’, which conveniently keeps Ector County from having to deal with this issue; we want to have our rights guaranteed by the constitution protected by those that swore to do so.  Ideally, the charges should have been filed and then the matter could have been determined in criminal court in front of a judge. All without violating or inhibiting Berry’s lawful access. Does a private party having legal access to private land they don’t own (such as Berry Petroleum, in pursuit of their minerals) give them the right to have anyone they wish on that private land for any reason? We believe not! Much is being made in the news of Rand Paul’s old fashioned filibuster in the US Senate making a declaration of the importance of the due process clauses of the US Constitution. God bless him and the brave souls from both parties that support him! We laud their courage in defending the Constitution. They clearly take their oath seriously. The mind reels at the thought of any President, of any party, ordering the execution of US citizens on US soil without those citizens being afforded their day in court and using our own military, made up of our sons and daughters, to carry out the execution!

Texas State Law declares:

30.05. CRIMINAL TRESPASS.  (a) A person commits an

offense if he enters or remains on or in property, including an

aircraft or other vehicle, of another without effective consent or

he enters or remains in a building of another without effective

consent and he:

                               (1)  had notice that the entry was forbidden;  or                            

                               (2)  received notice to depart but failed to do so.                          

               (b)  For purposes of this section:                                            

                               (1)  “Entry” means the intrusion of the entire body.                         

                               (2)  “Notice” means:                                                         

                                              (A)  oral or written communication by the owner or

someone with apparent authority to act for the owner;

The law defines ‘effective consent’ as:

Texas Penal Code
§ 1.07. Definitions.
(19) “Effective consent” includes consent by a person legally authorized to act for the owner.

In another incident, the same landowner was treated rudely and then ignored by a representative of Berry Petroleum. To be fair most of the Berry employees and subcontractors working on his land have been polite, accommodating and respectful wanting to get along as best possible in the situation. When the landowner attempted to charge the man with trespass, revoking his ‘effective consent’ for that individual, his plea to an official in the Ector County Sheriff’s office was rebuffed. He asked, “So, Berry Petroleum can throw someone off of a location on my land for trespassing, but I can’t throw one of their employees off of my land for trespassing because of bad behavior?”  “You got it!” was the official’s response. He went on to lecture the landowner for complaining about ‘piddling’ items and told him he needed to ‘get over it’. Does the landowner have the right to throw someone off his land whose behavior was perceived as threatening? Ector County Law enforcement does not think so.

In yet another incident the landowner believed a theft of his sand, gravel and caliche occurred in what he believed to be a contradiction to the terms of the original deed and the mineral lease; and suffered loss of the right to his own water (again, in what he believed to be contradiction to the original deed). When reporting this to the Sheriff’s department the landowner was again told that it was a civil matter. When Ector County refuses to investigate in the smallest measure do they not subvert justice and suppress our Constitutional rights? Our legislators seem content to look the other way. It seems our local elected officials and law enforcement don’t want to be bothered with something as trifling as the US Constitution. We are right to be concerned about Presidential orders to assassinate US citizens on our own soil. We would also be right to care about the violation of our constitutional rights going on in our own backyard! Or does the promise of jobs and a booming economy diminish those rights? Does the power of a multibillion dollar oil company like Berry Petroleum (now joined at the hip with Linn Energy) cow our law enforcement officials resulting in the violation of our constitutional rights? Does the price of the ‘Texas Miracle’ include shredding the Constitution? If so we are on a slippery slope to tyranny that we may never recover from no matter how many petrodollars are exported to Denver. Where shall we turn from here? What hope exists for us if the only relief is to stare down Berry Petroleum/Linn Energy in an expensive civil proceeding (remember, this company is worth billions of dollars and can hire legions of lawyers) in hopes that someone will recognize our constitutional dilemma and help us? We refuse to accept the ‘inevitability’ of losing this struggle. We believe the sacred promises of the US Constitution are worth fighting for. Do you? Will you ignore this travesty until it shows up in your own neighborhood? What will you do? I am reminded of the words of Martin Niemöller, a German pastor and theologian, about the Nazi atrocities in his country: 

               First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–

               Because I was not a Socialist.

               Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

               Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

               Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–

               Because I was not a Jew.

               Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me. 

Don’t allow the Constitution to be crushed in Gardendale. Speak up and stand up!