I was once sued by the Town of Huntington, NY for 7 million dollars, plus interest since 1797, and a sentence of one year in jail for refusing to surrender documents to the town historian, Rufus B. Langhams, who alleged, under oath, had been stolen from the Town by a colonial-era employee and kept hidden by his ancestors for 195 years until I was consigned to auction the papers off along with the contents of the family estate.
Prior to the lawsuit being heard before New York State Supreme Court Justice William L. Underwood, Jr., I was vilified in print by The Long Islander and Newsday, shunned by former friends, slandered by candidates and their political operatives, chastised by churchgoers, and kept under surveillance for nearly a year — only to be threatened by an assistant town attorney hiding in the bushes of my front yard after midnight, incessantly meowing until I ventured out, then backing me up against my front door while brandishing a knife-like object in order to serve me with court papers.
I share this to demonstrate my profound respect for Christine Blasey Ford’s anticipated testimony before Congress pertaining to Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States.
She is courageous.
Few can imagine the resolve it takes to risk one’s life and livelihood in order to ensure justice be done on behalf of the majority who will not seek it for themselves, nor for the benefit of another, nor for the good of a nation — because the fear of retribution makes stepping up perilous.
I suspect Ford does not want to testify. But as a competent citizen with a conscience compelling her to intervene, she knows her freedom of speech is denied the moment she chooses to silence herself, and — like all rights guaranteed by our constitution — free speech was granted as an individual’s responsibility to protect.
It is not an entitlement.
The fact that her testimony involves exposing intimacies secreted by shame engineered by patriarchal societies to silence women for centuries makes her testimony all the more ominous — and her decision to testify all the more valiant.
Our demand for her to be heard should be deafening.
Our cry should be, “Can you hear us, now?”
They sent three lawyers with the Huntington town historian to admonish me for costing the taxpayers nearly a million dollars to wage a year long war against me, arguing the merits of their action of replevin. They called for my incarceration, demanded to be rewarded all the original Town documents in my possession, urged that I be fined, and asked that I be assigned all legal fees and court costs.
I stood alone, without consul, in Propria Persona, as evidence of my innocence.
I presented a book on special loan to me from the reference section of the Huntington Public Library, authored by Rufus Langhams. Published a decade earlier, it contained photographs of every document I harbored that he’d sworn had been stolen during colonial times, with captions confirming the originals were in his possession, kept locked in the archives of the Huntington Historical Society, to which he had sole access.
I presented letters from several museums attesting to many of those same original documents being sold to them by Rufus Langhams, while acting in the capacity of town historian as directed by the Town of Huntington.
I listed names, addresses and phone numbers of other Town residents who were coerced into surrendering copies of inherited documents to Rufus Langhams when he showed up at their homes and demanded them, citing the New York State Property Tort of Replevin as his legal right to confiscate heirlooms.
I contended the documents I held were copies from 195 years passed, not the originals of documents that Langhams sold to profit himself over his many years of incumbency as the Town of Huntington historian.
Supreme Court Justice William L. Underwood, Jr. immediately dismissed the charges against me, with prejudice, thereby barring the Town from ever bringing an action against me on the claim again, and granted me sole property rights, before assigning all expenses incurred, court costs and attorney fees to the Town.
I was then excused. The town historian and three town attorneys were ordered to stay.
Newsday and The Long Islander never published a retraction, nor did they do a follow up story.
There was no public acknowledgement of wrongdoing by the town historian. The spurious charges in the action lodged against me were never revealed. There was no further discussion of the papers in question.
I was never offered an apology.
Eventually, a friend within Town government told me that, in lieu of no one else wanting the job, Rufus Langhams would remain as town historian, but would no longer be trusted with unaccompanied access to historic documents, and a full accounting of the archives had been ordered.
Eight years later, the town historian died of a heart attack. His obituary read, in part: “Rufus Buford Langhams of Huntington, L.I., once went to England seeking to collect $15,000 in Revolutionary War debts from the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was not successful.”
I was once a force to be reckoned with.
Christine Blasey Ford is one.
Shouldn’t we all be?
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist, author, and animal rescue activist.
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A Force To Be Reckoned With © 9.22.18 .
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