Archive for Saturday, October 25, 2008

County accused of rights violation

Latest lawsuit claims 1st Amendment breach

Several Douglas County officials will go before a federal jury next week after a man claims they violated his constitutional rights.

October 25, 2008


— Multiple Douglas County officials are accused of violating a man's constitutional rights, in a civil case that goes before a federal jury Wednesday in Topeka.

In the lawsuit, Michael Van Deelen alleges two Douglas County sheriff's deputies and two county tax appraisers violated his First Amendment rights by trying to threaten and intimidate him. The suit comes after a lengthy tangle with the county.

Douglas County Appraiser Marion Johnson, appraiser's office employee Steven Miles and sheriff's deputies Dale Flory and Kenneth Fangohr are listed as defendants in the suit. The board of county commissioners and Sheriff Ken McGovern were dropped from the lawsuit, which was initially filed in 2005.

'Frequent filer'

Van Deelen, 58, claims the county officials violated his rights, by retaliating against him for his continuous attempts to appeal the county's property tax assessment of his Eudora home, 1025 Acorn Drive. After multiple appeals and a lawsuit, Van Deelen alleges that he was verbally intimidated, that an appraiser scowled and stared at him, and that a sheriff's deputy poked him and threatened to shoot him if he continued to file appeals, deterring him from pursuing additional appeals, an exercise protected by the United States Constitution, according to court documents.

Van Deelen repeatedly has represented himself in lawsuits across the country and is described by U.S. District Court Senior Judge Sam Crow in a court document as a "frequent filer."

He filed multiple lawsuits in Douglas County District Court during the 1990s against an umpire, parents and organizers of a baseball association. In 1993, he filed a suit against Massey, who at that time was a Eudora police officer, claiming Massey verbally abused him during a Eudora Little League game.

In 2003, he filed a lawsuit against the Lawrence school district, claiming his son was threatened by Lawrence High School cheerleaders and fans during a wrestling match.

More recently in 2007, he filed suit against a school district in New Mexico, where he was a teacher.

Successful appeal

More than two years ago, Crow had dismissed the case that goes before a jury next week in Topeka, saying it wasn't a matter of public concern, court documents said.

But Van Deelen, who is not an attorney, won an appeal he filed with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

"One might well question the merits of Mr. Van Deelen's petitions or their significance, arising as they do from an ongoing and increasingly personal spat with county tax officials," said the appeals court in reversing the case on Sept. 10, 2007. "But a private citizen exercises a constitutionally protected First Amendment right any time he or she petitions the government for redress. : The First Amendment does not pick and choose its causes. The minor and questionable, along with the mighty and consequential, are all embraced."

The spat began in 1993, when Van Deelen sued the county and city of Eudora, after repeated issues with flooding at his home, which he purchased in 1991.

He complained that a nearby culvert contributed to the flooding. He was paid damages, the culvert was replaced with a bridge and Van Deelen dropped the lawsuit.

In 2000, Van Deelen thought the county overstated the assessed value of his home.

Things got nasty when he was unsuccessful in appealing the county's assessment during about eight administrative hearings over the next several years, court documents said.

During one of the hearings, Van Deelen allegedly made "accusatory" and "derogatory" comments toward Miles, court documents said, and that prompted the Douglas County appraiser's office to ask the sheriff's office to assign a deputy to be available outside the appraiser's office during their next meeting. Fangohr was assigned.

In February 2005, Van Deelen filed a federal civil lawsuit, alleging unconstitutional property valuations and perjury by Miles, court records said.

In March 2005, the county reduced the assessed value of Van Deelen's home by $5,000 and Van Deelen dismissed the lawsuit.

But later that month, Van Deelen pursued another tax appeal with the appraiser's office. Johnson requested a deputy - this time Flory - to sit inside during the meeting. Van Deelen alleged the deputy's attendance was intended to intimidate him, in retaliation for his lawsuits and appeals and to deter him from bringing future appeals, court records said.

Van Deelen, in the most recent lawsuit in the matter, claims Flory deliberately bumped him during the hearing, had his hand on his gun and made menacing looks.

He said the deputy's presence surprised and frightened him from pursuing future appeals.

Van Deelen is seeking $500,000 in damages.

Van Deelen and county officials had no comment Friday when contacted about the lawsuit.


Mixolydian 8 years, 10 months ago

Hey! I dissed this guy too a bit...where's my private death threat? No fair!Maybe he's too busy preparing his "Aff of David" for his "saponea" to get my real name and address.

bizarre 8 years, 11 months ago

There are two kinds of people in this world.Those who will threaten to do something....and Those who threaten and then take actiion!

Chris Ogle 8 years, 10 months ago

I bet he was picked on in school..... so he quit early!

Mixolydian 8 years, 10 months ago

Pywacket - I thought your posts seemed disjointed, now it makes sense. What did he write?

monkeyspunk 8 years, 10 months ago

I know all four of the "defendants" in this case. The LE officers are awesome guys, one is a huge opponent of certain types of taxation, especially property. He has written LTEs in the past. The other has too much to lose to make such threats. We know his family and they are awesome people. One of the appraisers is a very nice guy, very soft spoken and respectful. One of them on the other hand comes off as kind of a sour puss all the time, and I could see him "scowling" at Van Dingaling. Sounds like to me this guy is angry at the world, his mother/dad, his kids, and everything so he thinks he has to make up for it by trying to make productive members of society's lives miserable. If the federal jury has any sense they will rule against this fool.

whatupdown 8 years, 11 months ago

Sue him for somthing stupid too. All is fair in his game.

fatheadff 8 years, 11 months ago

I had a run in with this Van Deelen a couple of years ago when he chased me and my daughter in his vehicle then when i pulled over he pulled a gun on me... The cops were called and they did nothing to him because in there words they told me he would file a lawsuit against them so they just let him go..... I guess who is the bully getting away with intimidating people....

BigD68 8 years, 11 months ago

I've had a so called run in with him and his son at a baseball field and I can say he's one cocky sob. He's gotten the house almost free thanks to a contract that didn't have all the i's dotted and t's crossed. This guy has the audacity to bring suits against anyone who crosses him. Hey LPD next time give him a tazer in the knee and tell him you didn't have very good control.

Mixolydian 8 years, 11 months ago

No decent civil defense attorney lets this case get beyond the dispositive motion stage. Beat by a pro se court system abuser with court appointed pro bono appellate counsel...not good for the old resume.

merrywidow033 8 years, 11 months ago

I realize I shouldn't find it funny ('cos in all honesty, this guy seems like he needs some mental help) but it made me laugh so hard! I love the "menacing looks" that are given. My favorite, however, is "an appraiser scowled and stared at him" -- you can't make this stuff up!

Mixolydian 8 years, 10 months ago

:- ( ^IIThat's me scowling and staring.

Deja Coffin 8 years, 11 months ago

I went to school with his oldest son, not the one threatened by cheerleaders and I always felt bad for the kid. When we were in elementary school if someone picked on him he'd say his dad would sue you. He was really smart and even skipped a grade or two but the kid had no clue when it came to social interaction. I can only hope he grew up and realized that maybe the way his father interacted with people and dealt with the world isn't the best way.

mom_of_three 8 years, 11 months ago

sue someone because they made menacing looks..come on, get real....

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 11 months ago

Based on the background of the plaintiff, I am surprised this is even a news article. I mean editors are supposed to exercise news judgment.

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 11 months ago

fatheadff: "The cops were called and they did nothing to him because in there words they told me he would file a lawsuit against them so they just let him go:"That stuff ticks me off so much. Fred Phelps has enjoyed decades of similar look-the-other-way protection from his conduct.

AjiDeGallina 8 years, 10 months ago

The Phelps are actually mostly disbarred attorneys.I think there is no need to call you any names, you make a case for your own sanity without any of the rest of us having to say anything.It is why I love freedom of speech, I am glad to give you a microphone to expose what a phony you really are.

AjiDeGallina 8 years, 10 months ago

poor thing, how miserable his life must be.I scowl at him too.and I dare him to track my IP, lol.

BigPrune 8 years, 10 months ago

Must keep comments at a minimum in regards to this article. Wouldn't want to get sued. But, you never know, perhaps this guy was intimidated. It isn't abnormal for the County Appraisers office to mess with people after they have filed an appeal, that's for sure.

Mixolydian 8 years, 10 months ago

Well alright! I finally got my nastygram!!Hello,The user howSTUPIDcanYOUget sent the following message to you via are a complete idiot........==============================Please do not reply to this e-mail message. To send howSTUPIDcanYOUget a response, visit this Web page: can only have one response to that:>:- (

BigD68 8 years, 10 months ago

I to got a message from him or his son:Hello,The user howSTUPIDcanYOUget sent the following message to you via d thinks he's a tough guy, huh..what's the d stand for, dumbass?

AjiDeGallina 8 years, 10 months ago

Almost forgot: Headquarters Counseling Center - www.hqcc.lawrence.ks.us211 E 8th St # C, Lawrence - +1 785-841-2345 Phone A Friend At Headquarters - www.hqcc.lawrence.ks.us211 E 8th St # C, Lawrence - +1 785-865-2600

AjiDeGallina 8 years, 10 months ago

A. Bert Nash Mental Health Center - - +1 785-843-9192 B. Dutton Psychotherapy & Therapy: Dutton Judith E - - +1 785-331-2600 C. Christian Psychological Services - - +1 785-843-2429 D. Family Therapy Institute Midwest - - +1 785-830-8299 E. Catholic Community Services - - +1 785-841-0307 F. University of Kansas: Child and Family Services Clinic - - +1 785-864-4416 G. Recovery and Hope Network Inc - - +1 785-856-1222 H. Dyslexia & Learning Differences Center Aim Center - +1 785-749-3838 I. Shane M Jones Associates PA - - +1 785-832-8838 J. KU Psychological Clinic - - +1 785-864-4121

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