Referendum deposition issue needs clarification [Letter]

I chaired the referendum effort of Citizens Working to Fix Howard County (FixHoCo).  We followed the rules.  We didn't coerce anyone to sign, nor collect signatures in any inappropriate way.  The recent attempts by William Erskine of the Offitt Kurman law firm, representing developers in the referendum litigation, is being characterized as protecting his clients' rights, and appropriate.  It is not appropriate.  The petitioners are being made to look like they are ignoring subpoenas.  This is not true either.


Attorneys are supposed to schedule depositions.  Erskine chose an arbitrary date and then insisted upon attendance, even threatening sanctions if I didn't cancel a trip to Italy planned for over a year to accommodate his chosen date. More importantly, the very right to have these depositions is on appeal.  Until the appeals court rules on whether or not it was legally correct for the judge to allow these depositions and broad document requests, it is not appropriate to attempt to force them to take place.  


All the press and publicity on this issue is leaving out that important piece of information.  The right to do these depositions is on appeal.  Thus, trying to compel people to attend them, prior to that decision, seems a violation of their rights to appeal, on a political speech, First Amendment issue.  


This appeal information is important, as it clarifies why the petitioners are not just violating a subpoena or court order, as they were entitled to appeal it, and Erskine trying to end-run that decision by forcing people through intimidation, to appear anyway is wrong, and they all have a right to correctly publicize this wrong.


We are doing what we can to preserve the right to referendum in this county, now and in the future.


Lisa Markovitz


Ellicott City


Chairwoman of FixHoCo

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