The Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice has launched a fundraiser to support our family through our latest legal challenges.
Our family is very grateful for the Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice (IACJ) offering to initiate a fundraiser to help with legal fees in our fight against Mountain Valley Pipeline. Below is a press release that has been shared.
MVP Suffers Blow, As Does The First Amendment.
Landowners Denied Civil Liberty to Peaceful Protest of Pipelines,
Reilly Family in Contempt of Court “by Proxy”.
Franklin County, Va. – On May 15, Judge Elizabeth Dillon delivered her much-anticipated ruling on MVP’s efforts to have the Reilly and Werner families held in contempt for refusing to take action to remove three unknown tree sitters on their Four Corners Farm. Less than 24 hours after the Court’s ruling, MVP advised the Reillys that it intended to set up camp on their land in order to conduct 24-hour surveillance. Within hours, the Reillys filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against MVP.
“We view this as a partial victory. MVP didn’t get what it wanted yesterday. The Werners were dismissed as were the unknown tree-sitters. We disagree with the Judge’s findings of contempt against the Reillys and the imposition of any fines, and believe it has serious First Amendment implications.” said Terry Frank, attorney for the Reilly and Werner families.
MVP filed a motion to enforce an injunction in April, and after a round of legal briefs, the parties attended a hearing before Dillon on May 4. After several hours of testimony and legal argument, the judge declined to rule from the bench or to award MVP the relief it sought. The Court acknowledged that there was no proof as to the identities of the tree sitters, much less whether they had any notice of MVP’s contempt filings. She did not order US Marshals to the farm or assess daily fines.
In a disturbing turn, however, and despite a finding that the Reillys did not fund, construct, or install the tree sits, erected before the Court ever granted the Easement to MVP, the Court did find the Reillys in contempt of its earlier order granting MVP an easement and assessed a penalty of $1,000 each. The Court based its decision solely on the Reillys providing tents and a camper to individuals who may (or may not) have been some of the same ones in the trees. Because the Reillys publicly and vocally opposed MVP, and because the Court believed they “engaged in behavior that, in concert with the actions of the tree-sitters, have delayed, obstructed, or interfered with MVP’s use of the easement,” the Court specifically found the Reillys in contempt by “allowing the Tree-sitters to violate [her] order by proxy.” In essence, Judge Dillon used the Reillys’ First Amendment opposition as evidence to support a contempt finding.
The Reillys and their attorneys are evaluating their legal options.