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Skunkie Acres vs Lake City Reporter, Pt II: The Hearing and Judge's Order

Made up news; made up order

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The May 20, 2015 hearing was continued from April 15, 2015, when the patriarch of Skunkie Acres, 83 year-old Bernard Haake, passed out The hearing was continued to May 20. The first half of the May 20th hearing was covered in Part I of this article.

Also, as reported earlier, the Haakes ignored the Foreman Law Firm's April 21 threat to sue them if they didn't withdraw their lawsuit.

Not Lawyers: The Haakes try to amend their statement of claim.

Barbara Haake and daughter Megan tried unsuccessfully to amend their statement of claim.

On or about April 24, 2015, in an effort to amend their incomprehensible statement of claim, the Haakes filed a motion with the Court to amend its complaint. A copy of the motion received by the Observer stated the following (as written):  "[We are] asking the Court's permission to file an amendment to the Statement of Claim... Defendants state that the Plaintiffs Statement of Claim are undetermined. We would like to correct the Statement of Claim... Plaintiffs are not lawyers but because of recent events there is a financial hardship and we are requesting the courts permission to re- file the Statement of Claim.

No one could understand the statement of claim.

While this motion, or attempted motion, never made it onto the court docket, it was discussed at the May 20 Small Claims court hearing.

May 20 Small Claims Court Hearing (continued from part I)

Shortly before Judge Coleman opened the hearing, which occurred in his chambers, His Honor made sure the chamber door was closed and locked. There was no indication anywhere in the Lake City courthouse, unless one happened to have a copy of the daily court calendar, that Judge Tom Coleman was continuing with an adjourned Small Claims Court hearing from April 15.

Attorney Bense argues his motion to dismiss as Judge Coleman follows along.

Jonathan Bense, the Lake City Reporter's attorney, presented his motion to dismiss. Judge Coleman listened; asked questions; and talked a lot.

Skunkie Acres Barbara Haake presented her case. She mentioned that she wanted to "redo" her motion. Judge Coleman listened; asked questions, and opined that they should have hired an attorney like "Bruce Robinson" [a well known local attorney who had recently run for County Attorney] because he would have been prepared and known what to do.

As the hearing progressed, it was clear that no one, including the Haakes could really understand their statement of claim.

The Rules of Small Claims Court: clear and unambiguous:

(c) Clerk’s Duties. The clerk shall assist in the preparation of a statement of claim and other papers to be filed in the action at the request of any litigant....

Judge Coleman opined that if the Clerk had helped the Haakes with their statement of claim, she would have been practicing law without a license.

Judge Coleman: He ruled and ruled again

After about 45 minutes, Judge Coleman addressed Mr. Bense and his motion to dismiss: "If it will make you feel better, I’ll grant that motion with leave to amend. You’ll have that step accomplished... I’m going to go ahead, so that we’ve made progress, I’m going to dismiss the complaint without prejudice to amend. You may file an amended complaint...

Mr. Bense protested.

For the first time during the proceeding Mr. Bense brought up Small Claims Rule 7.135. Nowhere in Mr. Bense's motion to dismiss was any mention of "Rule 7.135."


At pretrial conference or at any subsequent hearing, if there is no triable issue, the court shall summarily enter an appropriate order or judgment.

Judge Coleman Reconsidered

Grants Summary Judgment – Rejects Bense's Motion – Dismisses Complaint Based on Rule 7.135

Judge Coleman: "Under the law I feel that -- havin’ been reminded of the rule and gettin’ my head straight about we’re actually in summary procedure court -- at this point my ruling is on its face, the complaint, statement of claim it’s called, lacks sufficient facts to be -- to put the other party on true notice about what they must defend. And under that, I don’t dismiss under summary procedure, but I grant summary judgment based on (unintelligible) the face of the complaint -- not on the underlying facts that might be there, but on its ambiguity -- and that’s what I’m goin’ to basically instruct him [Bense] to do a short order for me that says -- you know -- pursuant to that rule -- I find it to be -- to lack clarity, bein’ ambiguous on its face -- facially it lacks sufficient clarity for me to do due process and that I grant judgment under that rule.

Wouldn’t hurt my feelin’s if he recorded part of that rule, so as to make it clear.

That will be that and that will close this case and then if you find that you can file another one -- there’s a statute of limitations I’m sure on somethin’, but you’re not going to hear it from  me -- what it is -- because that would be legal advice and then you’d -- you’d -- I am no longer concerned about asking you how long it would take you to file a different kind of complaint and all that, because the proper rule -- I’ve now done the proper thing."

Foreman's Bense, the LCR attorney, prepares the order

On May 21, the day after the hearing, Mr. Bense forwarded his proposed order to the Court without asking the Haakes if they took exception to the motion. Mr. Bense did forward a copy to the Haakes. The Haakes took exception.

The Bense-proposed order laid out the history of the pleading in the case minus LCR's Editor Bridge's pro se motion to dismiss. The Haakes' version of the order included it. Mr. Bense objected. Judge Coleman left it out.

Mr. Bense omitted his notice of appearance. The Haakes' version suggested including it. Mr. Bense did not object. The Judge included it.

The Haakes removed that it was ordered that "Defendants' Amended Motion to Dismiss is Granted." Mr. Bense wanted it in. Judge Coleman left it in.


County Small Claims Court Judge Tom Coleman couldn't have been clearer: "... I grant judgment under that rule." [Rule 7.135. Summary Disposition]

During the Court's final ruling Judge Coleman did not grant Mr. Bense's amended motion to dismiss. That was crystal clear.

It is also clear that the issues that the Lake City Reporter claims in its lead sentence in its article written by "from staff reports", is just not true.

"From Staff Reports" wrote, "A small claims case filed by the owners of Skunkie Acres against the Lake City Reporter was dismissed because the newspaper did nothing wrong based on the allegations and supporting documents."

The case was dismissed because the allegations in the Haakes' statement of claim were totally unclear. The merits of the Lake City Reporter's arguments and defenses were not addressed by the court in its decision.

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