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An opinion piece for the Fayette Advertiser

Posted 3/19/24

Coming up…elections. I read (Fayette Advertiser, Wed. Feb. 7, Vol.184, #23) with interest Judge Hayes defending his record as a helpful and stellar member of the bar. A fourth term? I remember …

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An opinion piece for the Fayette Advertiser


Coming up…elections. I read (Fayette Advertiser, Wed. Feb. 7, Vol.184, #23) with interest Judge Hayes defending his record as a helpful and stellar member of the bar. A fourth term? I remember some years ago he ran on the moniker: Equal justice for all! Ah, the goal of blindfolded Lady Justice, sworn to civil and criminal cases. Well, it just so happened our family needed to go to court (for the first time ever or anywhere in our lives) about a landowner who, without permission, flooded our property by expanding a pond and raising their dam. The other party has at least 100+ acres and decided they needed to grab three more from us, destroying 38 mature trees and up to 100 saplings. The water cut up the middle back third of our 40-acre property. A former stock pond turned monster was created. We tried to negotiate with the owner and were lectured on our unappreciation for little ‘fishies’ that could spawn and feed the now ‘lake.’ Our side was left with huge dangerous dead trees (non-harvestable), water (non-boatable or swimmable) with buried barbed wire and posts. No accommodation, the owner balked, would be allowed…even say temporarily lowering the water line so we could just condition our side of the property. Their side is pristine, ours a quagmire.  After depositions, it was found the other owner cut corners and even raised the water level again to accommodate another mistake made by them on their side and now ‘lake.’ In court Judge Hayes made it very clear he wanted to rule on criminal cases sending us to mediation with a still irascible, unyielding and uncompromising property owner. What is done is now done, but when we needed the Judge most: to rule over a civil issue with a cranky person…well, when we needed Judge Hayes, he bailed for more ‘important’ things. We were asked in court: “What do you DO back there?” I know the court was trying to say this wasn’t a human murder or the burning down of trees the size of the State of California…but still. There was no written agreement allowing trespass, only a discussion with the missive: “Whatever you do on your property fine, but do not harm any of our flora and fauna.” Period. (Beware: Tape everything.) At Judge Hayes firm dismissal, he left us to hold our ariel pictures of the before (no problems) and after damage; the affidavits of the forester who took core samples stating trees harmed could not have possibly grown to their maturity if, as the other party claimed: “It was always wet back there!”  Was the ruling legal, sure. But was it ‘just’? I think not. The Judge declares he wants everyone to have a “fair and efficient forum?” We were cut off. Am I disturbed because we ‘didn’t win?’...No. The point is we were not even able to put the evidence out. This case, he implied, was unimportant. 

Can I forgive the selfish back owner for making our property difficult to navigate and use? For the loss of mushroom hunting and the inability to access the area (now our lake) without spending a huge amount of money to make our area reasonable to access and use? The loss of mature trees to someday harvest…Yes, I can. Can I forgive Judge Hayes for flicking us off as if we were stupid pesky flies at a picnic? Yes, I can. But am I annoyed at the treatment and cavalier attitude. Yes! The Judge said: “Shall we try it now!?” with a smirk and no real recourse for presentation. We were dismissed like an errant school child who accused another of stealing a fifty-cent candy bar, implying how petty we were!

 I look at the ego of the owner who fed their dream of a paradise getaway, at our expense with the Judge’s acquiescence. Plus, the ego of a Judge who believes the court is so stressed that little property owners like us are disposable for the smooth running of his court. It makes me just wonder if there are other property owners/taxpayers in Howard or Randolph County who, with infringement issues, are routinely dismissed like this? Is this a habit? I have no way of knowing or of culling through all the cases. If land issue cases are infrequent, what is the quickness to dismiss a landowner?

Has Judge Hayes done good for people in his position? I’m sure he has. Has the other property owner been a good person to their family? I’m sure they have. However, it would be a great thing if these people reexamine the comfort in their situations of power and look at any biases that lurk there. Look deeper. THAT would show character and what I believe Lady Justice would have done.

 I gladly welcome the Judge visit our back property since his pronouncement. I’ll serve coffee and a homemade scone too! It would be a two-hour commitment from Fayette, to see for himself the outcome. Even in the aftermath of forced mediation, the huge costs for us to make the now ‘our lake’ accessible is daunting. That other owner, I believe, banked on that, gambled and gained everything on our backs. With a look at this reality, another property owner in the future might be given more consideration for their case by Judge Hayes.

The citizens of Howard and Randolph County will have to decide for themselves on how to vote for the next Judge. If Judge Hayes is re-elected, hopefully he will do so more humbly, over awards for efficiency. The dismissing of property owners of other’s trespass has egregiously cost more and ruined our land for many years ahead. It is a sad thing.

Respectfully, sincerely,

Chiara Sainer, 

Howard County property owner


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