Knowing this resource was finite and the integrity of a new nation could not guarantee this asset for everyone, our constitutional forefather Thomas Jefferson replaced "land" with the "pursuit of happiness". There is wisdom in understanding men's souls are guided in different directions and while one individual may pursue the aquisition of land another may find peace praying to the almighty - or fishing. In a free nation we have this choice.
The judicial system, if pure, enables the pursuit of happiness and consequently the transfer of land as the owners see fit. While one entity may choose to build an Empire on the Lake Taneycomo lakefront, others may seek to preserve a fishing hole.
The tradition of judges in the Judeo Christian tradition is outlined in the Old Testament/Torah - Book of Leviticus. Priests were assigned to the task as such power necessitated the up-most of integrity and the consequences of a compromise would be devastional to society.
The recent dissertation of Missouri Supreme Court Justice William Ray Price Jr. to the Missouri Legislature addresses the cause of judicial integrity as a cornerstone of America's economic greatness:
"Goods and services can be bought and sold, money can be exchanged, people can plan for the future, but only because they can trust in a fair and impartial judiciary to protect their property and their rights."
In many cases justice is compromised by the sheer fact we have not priests but rather attorney to proxy our interests before a judge. And many a sin against men is left unpunished because the victim has little financial recourse to properly fight a goliath.
After penning details of a jury trial in which Doug Coverdell's ownership of a large portion of the Branson Landing citizens have complained of similar land disputes where Empire District Electric claims to own property along Lake Taneycomo's shore against the belief of the presumed owner. After notifying a claim to a landowner - generally for docks - an offer by Empire allows the owner to lease his dock for a relatively small amount. The price is a small fraction of what it would cost to fight the behemouth and thus some choose to pay.
In the case of Doug Coverdell Vs. Empire District Electric another route was chosen. Empire chose to file a quiet title suit and the nightmare that ensued continued until a jury trial confirmed Coverdell as the rightful owner. Between the initial challenge by Empire and Coverdell's victory, the Branson Landing lakefront project was built. Much less than the average charge for a "dock fee" an annual rate of $1.00 is being charged for lease from Empire District Electric to the City of Branson - in this case on land a jury ruled Empire does not own.
Common sense would dictate a quick settlement involving compensation and transfer of title; however, an apparently sinister plot would guide a different path. The total cost to fight Coverdell is unknown, but the city of Branson allocated $750,000 in legal expenses this year. Tax dollars are being used to fight a citizen who at one time begged for minimal consideration.
The shenanigans pulled along the way are awe inducing. From court documents missing from the record, to parallel titles being filed the reek of foul play taints. Though lawful, the five years of court proceedings would bankrupt most businessmen, perhaps most businesses. It appears that Empire attempted to perpetually lock the land in litigation as when the court pushed the case to trial (not accepting any more delays) the case was immediately dropped. The fact Coverdell filed a countersuit must have been overlooked. Instead of Empire District Electric filing another quiet title suit locking Coverdell out for many more years the countersuit was quickly heard at the Taney County Courthouse.
Having followed and read court filings for two years I was a leg up. I patiently waited for my peers in the press to inform the public an estimated $50,000,000 chunk of land ownership was in contrast to hundreds of stories iterating Empire/Branson ownership was confirmed untrue by the most respected form of justice in the American system - the jury.
Rea;zing local media outlets weren't going to run the story without prompting it was published on the Branson Missouri site. Reporters from around southwest Missouri grappled for coverage, but as their main asset in the case was an unsuccessful aggressor whose prose are reiterated and pawned to the public as news, the trial results were editorialized. The losers had the press locked down which they used to belittle the findings, taunt the land owner and deliver speculation favorable to their cause to the public.
A reporter for the Springfield News-Leader called several times but was unwilling to make a trip to the Taney County Courthouse to grab the file. KSPR, instead of reporting the jury findings speculated about a trial no reporter was present at. The Branson Daily News reporter used only the losing attorney's wishful statement to stain the front page and the Branson Daily Independent used their front page to show the shortcomings of the Branson Daily News report highlighting the false statements methodology allowed their competitor to pen.
While the City of Branson was all to happy to use their power full force to soothe the public and fight bad press with speculative statements to belittle the jury findings they failed to file an appeal within the 30 day window.
Slowing the wheels of justice further they took what could in the end exceed one million in tax payer funds to undo the jury findings. A year later both Empire and Branson will have a few minutes to convince the three member Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals that a red herring is large enough to command a re-trial.
In secret places there is fear. The fear is that the system of justice could be compromised with favor or bribe rather than strict compliance with the rule of law. There is no reason to believe the corruption Branson has a reputation for is powerful enough to dwarf justice at this level. But the behavior of the City of Branson and Empire District Electric demands answers.
And it should be known while millions are being put on the table, while tax dollars are squandered to feed the most talented attorneys from a county with epidemic poverty at no point did Branson's Mayor Presley nor the Branson Board of Alderman sit humbly at the table with Coverdell to ask how the dispute could be settled.
We should hope and pray that the courts have more honor than what has been displayed by the city and more common sense than the average politician who believe not in a common God but rather one biased to a few individuals who squander public funds to promote their biases.