In a case that has garnered the attention of the nationally syndicated “Judge Mathis” courtroom TV show, West Franklin school district patron Henry Snodgrass was back in court Monday morning in his quest to again be allowed to attend school board meetings.
After a Franklin County judge denied former West Franklin school board president Thayne Bush’s request for a protection from stalking order against Snodgrass, Snodgrass filed a suit in small claims court June 24 against West Franklin Superintendent Dotson Bradbury — seeking $4,000 and readmittance to school grounds — because of an April 3 letter in which Bradbury banned him from district property and events for one year, based on the allegations Bush had made against him.
Judge Kevin Kimball ruled June 7 in district court that Bush’s petition against Snodgrass did not meet the “statutory burden” for a protection order to be granted. Snodgrass said he was wrongfully denied access to school grounds because Bradbury’s letter was issued two months before Kimball’s ruling.
“He declared himself judge and jury,” Snodgrass’ said of Bradbury’s decision to impose the one-year ban before the court ruling. “I’m a veteran, and I don’t like being lied about and having my freedom taken away.”
In an April 3 letter, Bradbury notified Snodgrass that because of two alleged incidents between Snodgrass and Bush after public meetings, Snodgrass was “prohibited from being at school, on school property and from attending any and all school sponsored events including USD 287 Board of Education meetings for one calendar year.”
In the petition, Snodgrass, 71, said he was seeking $4,000, plus interest, costs and other damages deemed appropriate by the court, for the emotional distress, discrimination, slander and several other grievances associated with the one-year ban imposed by Bradbury.
Magistrate Judge Taylor Wine dismissed Snodgrass’ small claims suit Monday morning in the Franklin County District Court building, 301 S. Main St., Ottawa, because the judge said he did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. The judge said the kind of damages Snodgrass was seeking against Bradbury — emotional distress, discrimination, slander and other grievances — could not be heard in small claims court under the statutes set forth in the Kansas Tort Claims Act.
Bradbury was acting in his official capacity as superintendent of West Franklin schools when he wrote the letter, and school districts were considered a form of government that falls under the tort claims act, which would have to be tried in district court, Wine said.
“Any claims brought under the Kansas Tort Claims Act cannot be filed in small claims court,” Wine said. “I am dismissing the case without prejudice, because I don’t have the jurisdiction to hear this case.”
Wine told Snodgrass that dismissing the case “without prejudice” did not mean he was dismissing it based on the merits of the case, but rather simply because he did not have the jurisdiction to hear it.
Snodgrass and his wife, Sue, said after the hearing they were not going to “lay down and run,” but were going to “stand up for what is right.”
Snodgrass said his next step would be to try to find an attorney who would help him file civil action in district court against either Bush, Bradbury or both men.
Bradbury declined comment about the case Monday afternoon.
On Friday, Snodgrass said he received a letter from the “Judge Mathis” courtroom TV show. He provided a copy of the letter to The Herald. Mathis was elected judge in the 36th District Court of Michigan in 1995, and for the past 14 years has arbitrated small claims cases on the “Judge Mathis” television show while “simultaneously illuminating issues of inequality and motivating thousands of individuals to overcome the hardships that he also has faced,” the letter said.
Justin Ochonicki, senior producer of the Judge Mathis show, said the show was contacting Snodgrass because “we believe your case may be appropriate for Judge Mathis.”
Snodgrass was pleased the “Judge Mathis” show had taken an interest in the case, because Snodgrass said he had been dealt an injustice and he would like the public to know about it.