confidential memo, and membership list in the possession ofrnthe organization. In the case of Enos Schera, they were demandingrn15 years of documents!rnRob Ross, director of FLA-187, was incredulous. He knewrnthe commission had overstepped its legal authority. Furthermore,rnhe was well aware of the history of the California Prop.rn187 petition drive. There, activist leaders routinely receivedrndeath threats, were physically and verbally abused, had theirrnhomes vandalized, and one activist, Barbara Coe, was subjectedrnto a six-hour “interview” in her home by the FBI. Ross knewrnthat if he honored the subpoena, his volunteer network wouldrncollapse. He fought back.rnOn September 8, the Tampa Tribune’s front page carried thernheadline, “Immigration Group Blasts Agency Tactics.” Thernstory was soon picked up by the statewide media. On the samernday. Congressman Charles Canady, chairman of the HousernJudiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, sent a scathingrnletter to Mary Matthews of the commission: “It is my understandingrnthat individuals engaged in legitimate and constitutionallyrnprotected political activities have been served with subpoenasrnto compel attendance against their will and with arntwo-page detailed request for internal records and documentsrnregarding their First Amendment-protected activities.” Herncontinued, “I have serious concerns that these actions have hadrnthe effect of chilling the lawful exercises of First Amendmentrnrights by citizens. In addition, it creates the appearance thatrnthe powers of the Commission are being used to target individualsrnbased on the content of their political advocacy.” Therncongressman went on to inform the commission that he hadrnscheduled oversight hearings “regarding this matter and otherrnissues of concern.” In spite of this letter, and a subcommitteernpress release. Chairman Berry did not back off.rnThe story broke into the national news with the WashingtonrnTimes headline (September 11), “Illegal-Immigrant FoesrnGet Subpoenas.” Reporter Joyce Price exposed a rift in therncommission: three commissioners had expressed concern atrnthe scope of the subpoenas. Commissioner Constance Hornerrnstated, “I think the subpoenas the staff has issued are intrusive,rnheavy-handed, and chilling of speech and association.” The activistsrntook their case to the press and released copies of the subpoenas.rnEven liberal newspapers were horrified. The lead editorialrnof the Palm Beach Post on September 13 carried thernheadline, “How An Un-Civil Agency Went Far Out Of Control,”rnwith the subhead, “A Delray Beach Woman’s ExperiencernShows Why People Fear The Federal Government.”rnStill under subpoena, Rob Ross spent the weekend ofrnSeptember 10 in Wishington, D.C. Although an experiencedrncivil rights litigator himself, he worked feverishly with a constitutionalrnspecialist to prepare a complaint against the CivilrnRights Commission. His objective was to file in federal districtrncourt in Washington an emergent complaint seeking injunctivernrelief from the subpoenas and then follow with a suit for damagesrnon behalf of himself. Peart, Schera, and their respective organizations.rnA 25-page detailed complaint was finalized the morning ofrnSeptember 11. Ross intended to file it the next morning. Thernpress became aware of the impending suit and informed therncommission, at which point Chairman Berry relented. On thatrnmorning, she sent faxes to the three activists, relieving them ofrnthe subpoenas and making appearance and surrender of documentsrnvoluntary. Ross, Peart, and Schera all graciously declinedrnher “voluntary invitation.” Ross, preempted, was unablernto file his suit.rnInstead, Ross decided to take the offensive and forestall futurernharassment by the federal government. The FLA-187rnCommittee drafted a resolution it is now attempting to movernin the Florida State legislature, detailing the harassment. Thernstatement reads, “A Resolution—Urging the Clinton administrationrnand the Executive branch of the federal government tornimmediately cease and desist harassment, intimidation, andrnobstruction of Florida residents engaged in their constitutionallyrnprotected right to petition for redress, and to amend theirrnstate constitution; and, furthermore, refrain from abusive interferencernwith the internal political process of the sovereign staternof Florida.” The body of the resolution contends that the U.S.rnCivil Rights Commission attempted to violate the First,rnFourth, and Tenth Amendment rights of three U.S. citizens, asrnwell as their Article I, see. 4, Article I, sec. 5, and Article XI, sec.rn? rights under the Florida Constitution.rnOn September 18, Congressman Mark Foley dispatched arnstrong letter to President Clinton, signed by seven other congressmen,rndetailing the incident, affirming that “we believernthis is a clear violation of their First Amendment rights” andrnapplauding Congressman Canady’s plan for oversight hearings,rnstating, “We have serious concerns and questions about therntactics of this Commission and the manner in which it utilizesrntaxpayer dollars on behalf of the federal government.”rnBearing bona fide press credentials, I attended the Miamirnhearings and had the opportunity to interview Chairman Berryrnbefore the hearings began:rnQ: Is it possible that Ms. Chinn went overboard in thernquestioning of JoAnn Peart?rnA: No, it’s routine fact-finding; it’s the same for all witnesses.rnQ: Here’s the letter to Congressman Foley; do you thinkrnPeart’s objections have merit?rnA: No, it’s all lies, she’s a liar.rnQ: Here’s Rob Ross’s subpoena and demand for documents;rndo you think the staff went too far?rnA: No. We didn’t ask for any sensitive or intrusive information,rnmembership lists or anything like that. The subpoenasrndidn’t overreach. Look, these subpoenas are simplyrnroutine. Since 1957, every witness gets a subpoena.rnIf they don’t have documents they don’t bring them; ifrnthey do, they do. If they refuse to comply, well, we can’trnforce them, as we have no enforcement power. Look,rnthis is just a misunderstanding. It’s a flap blown out ofrnproportion. These “187” people aren’t very sophisticatedrn—these people overreacted.rnQ: LTnsophisticated? Are you aware that Rob Ross is arnformer county prosecutor in Essex County, New Jersey—rnvery familiar with subpoenas, enforcement power, andrnconsequences for failure to comply—and is now a successfulrnlitigator in private practice?rnA: No comment.rnQ: How would you respond to the charge that the majorityrnof this committee is utilizing this hearing and taxpayers’rnfunds to advance their own political agenda?rnA: That’s ridiculous. Why, there are only two Democratsrnon this whole commission. What political agenda?rnQ: Should Commissioner Reynoso have recused himselfrnsince he activeU^ campaigned against Prop. 187?rn26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn