ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Their [the press] only goals were to make headlines and hurt Congressman Mitchell.
Remember, for Congressman Mitchell’s whole time in Congress, The Sunpapers
was never favorable and always opposed him.
Case of Parren J Mitchell vs. The Sun, et. al.
Former Congressman says his privacy was violated
By D. Morton Glover
This Wednesday marks the beginning of a classic ‘David vs. Goliath’ court battle where former Congressman and recipient of the Purple Heart Parren J. Mitchell is suing The Baltimore Sun Newspapers, and Sun reporters, Walter F.Roche and Ivan Penn. This comes as a result of an incident where the two reporters allegedly trespassed the Keswick Nursing Home room of the former 7th Congressional district Congressman on the evening of May 29, 2002.
This Wednesday’s hearing on a Motion for Summary Judgment, scheduled for Room 436 of the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse at 2:00 p.m., will go before the Honorable Stuart R. Berger, Judge. This is the first stage in the Court proceedings to determine whether or not the case will move forward on June 15, 2004 for a jury trial.
Legal counsel for The Sun is expected to file a motion to dismiss, and counsel for Mitchell is then expected to file in opposition.
In the final analysis, Wednesday’s hearing will determine if there is sufficient basis for the case to go to jury.
Interestingly, the Mitchell Courthouse is named after Congressman Mitchell’s late older brother, the heralded chief lobbyist for the NAACP and dubbed the 101st Senator. He authored most every major piece of Civil Rights Legislation from 1950 to 1984.
In a statement released by Mitchell’s legal counsel today, it was reported: “Congressman Parren Mitchell filed this law suit so that it will be made clear in the future that the privacy rights of all senior citizens all across our country need to be better protected and respected by all, including the prying and invasive members of the media. This case was brought by Congressman Mitchell to stand-up for those that cannot speak for themselves, and, for the citizens of a jury to declare that this kind of illegal trespass, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy will not be tolerated in our civilized society.”
According to Arthur M. Frank, legal counsel for the national political icon, “Health permitting, Congressman Mitchell will be in attendance at this Hearing.”
Born April 22, 1922, Congressman Mitchell, a member of the famous Mitchell family, will turn 82-years old next month.
Attorney Frank told BMORENEWS.com that he is arguing that this is a clear-cut case of trespassing by the two Sun reporters at Mitchell’s Keswick Nursing Home room on the evening in question.
Congressman Mitchell has since been relocated to Manor Care in Ruxton, MD.
The issue of Congressman Mitchell’s finances was well-reported on during the spring and fall of 2002, the same time that former Maryland State Senator Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. was campaigning for what would turn-out to be an unsuccessful bid for re-election. Sen. Mitchell, a life-long Democrat, would ultimately turn his back on Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend’s bid for Governor and instead embraced and endorsed now-Governor, then-Candidate for Governor, Robert Ehrlich, and his running mate, Michael S. Steele. Gov. Ehrlich, a Republican, represents the first Republican in Maryland’s State House in approximately 36 years. Lt. Gov. Steele would become the first African American statewide elected official in the history of the State of Maryland.
Attorney Frank, in an interview with BMORENEWS.com, said that he believes the two reporters did not announce themselves properly to the staff at Keswick, a facility that has hosted other dignitaries, including former judge and Baltimore City Mayor, Joseph Harold Grady.
“Keswick Nursing Home has adopted a well-established policy where media acknowledges themselves and are to be accompanied by a member of the Keswick staff [in order to see residents].
Attorney Frank insists the recovering Congressman’s privacy was violated.
“The Sun did not care,” said Attorney Frank.
He said that they “purposefully violated” the rules and that the critical issue here is “trespassing – not what they wrote, but how they got what they wrote.”
“If they can do this to a former Congressman, how many others can be violated [without an opportunity for reprisal]?” he posed.
“The hearing on Wednesday is the first stage in court to determine where or not the privacy rights of all senior citizens across America need to be respected by all, including the prying members of the media. It was also determine whether or not illegal trespass into one’s home will be tolerated in our civilized society,” Attorney Frank said.
He added that Congressman Mitchell’s main purpose in pursuing this case is to once again stand up for the rights of those that cannot speak for themselves.
In a series of articles during the spring and summer of 2002, Congressman Mitchell’s nephew, Michael, was targeted by the Baltimore daily regarding his handling of his uncle’s financial affairs.
When asked about this, Attorney Frank said, “Michael Mitchell, in particular, has done nothing but preserved Parren’s life in his latter years, diligently taking care of him. Furthermore, no reasonable person would remotely think that the invasion of privacy and trespassing by the two reporters was done in any way to help Congressman Mitchell. The only accomplishment of their story was an attempt to embarrass and humiliate an icon of our society and one of the greatest treasures of Maryland.”
He continued, “If they truly thought the Congressman needed help, then trespassing [in his room], attempting to interview him, and publishing an embarrassing and humiliating story about a person convalescing from two strokes and who has survived a coma was no way to help that person. Their only goals were to make headlines and hurt Congressman Mitchell. Remember, for Congressman Mitchell’s whole time in Congress, The Sunpapers was never favorable and always opposed him. It would be incredible to think that they are trying to help him now.”
In his deposition given on November 14, 2003, Congressman Mitchell stated that his relationship with The Baltimore Sun has been historically “very negative.”
Congressman Mitchell said, “The Sun disagreed with my political philosophy.”
He also said, “[There was] constant criticism of me by The Sunpapers,” something that “didn’t change through my tenure in Congress. They talked about how I opposed the President, the Viet Nam War, and various public policies. In general, I think I was regarded as too liberal…They opposed me and they made it clear I was not their favorite Congressman. If they did not come out and oppose me, they ignored me, or played me down when there was direct opposition.”
22 March 2004
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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