Can anyone figure out what legal strategy the City of Parkville is trying to employ in its defense of the Sunshine lawsuit filed by Jason Maki? It is weird and it is curious.
The city’s attorneys spend hearings talking in circles. They agree to measures during the hearings then don’t follow up after the hearing. They seem to pretend they didn’t understand the judge’s direction or didn’t interpret the judge’s direction the same way everyone else apparently did. The court orders the city to hand over previously-closed documents as part of discovery with the understanding Maki will not share the documents with the public, the city is slow to respond and then when it does hand over some documents there are redactions when redacting was not mentioned in the court’s instruction. And there are redactions in what should be the simplest of public documents, such as a meeting notice posted on the door of city hall. Why redact a public document? Suspicious, to say the least. “It makes me wonder what else they’re improperly redacting,” Maki said in court on Monday, April 12. It got the judge’s attention. “I don’t understand why you are redacting public documents,” Judge James Van Amburg said to Steven Coronado, one of the city’s attorneys.
So a repetitive cycle continues. The city agrees to hand over discovery items and then it never happens quite the way it was discussed. Then a new deadline is established. The judge shows admirable patience. Then when that deadline passes with the discovery documents still not provided or heavily redacted, there is discussion, another agreement on what’s being sought, a directive from the court and another court hearing scheduled. It’s like one of those daytime soap operas with a storyline that never ends. The writers for Days of Our Lives would be proud.
I guess you could speculate the city is trying to run out the clock, maybe counting on Maki to get either frustrated or bored with the games and walk away. We could speculate their motive is to run up legal bills for the plaintiff, except the plaintiff is representing himself. And as for running out the clock, good luck with that. Maki seems dug in and determined. The city is well past $130,00 in legal defense fees and is getting more than it bargained for when it started jacking with Maki’s public records requests back in 2019. Maki’s determination seems like that of a man who has the city by the short hairs and he knows it.
Meanwhile, the city’s defense team is moving very slow and deliberate. Or perhaps deliberately slow. To say the city’s defense attorneys are moving at a snail’s pace is an insult to snails. On Monday, when discussion centered on what discovery items needed to be provided and the process for doing so, Coronado said: “That’s doable.” The judge didn’t seem impressed. “Well, we’ll see. It hasn’t been doable so far,” Van Amburg responded. At one point, Coronado told the court: “I understand his (Maki’s) concerns. We’re doing the best we can.” To which Judge Van Amburg responded: “Well, you need to do better, Mr. Coronado.”
Then toward the end of Monday’s hearing, Maki said because of the city’s significant delays in providing discovery, he would be approaching the city’s legal counsel about establishing a new case schedule to account for the year-long delays. Judge Van Amburg agreed and then made a point by putting words in Coronado’s mouth: “Mr. Coronado will have no objection to that.”
It has been a long time coming, but things are starting to get interesting. Get your popcorn ready.
(Ivan Foley can be found eating popcorn while watching court battles. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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