Judge rules for SGSA in nine Amish cases

Judge Maureen Skerda ruled on nine cases involving the Amish failure to pay sewer fees in Sugar Grove Township Wednesday afternoon, and allowed two cases to proceed to further proceedings.

Andrea Stapleford, solicitor for the Sugar Grove Area Sewer Authority (SGASA) first asked Skerda to dismiss 10 of the eleven Affidavit of Defense filings because of failure to file in a timely fashion, and Skerda agreed that nine were not timely, and the remaining two were filed on time.

Bernard J. Hessley, said that they were late because the defendants were Amish and didn’t have telephones. Skerda chided Hessley, saying that as their lawyer, he should have taken care of it.

Both Hessley and Stapleford made arguments based on precedents in case law, both in Pennsylvania and other states.

Stapleford said, “The Affidavits of Defense all must be stricken, as they are legally deficient.” she added that they “have no basis in law,” and that their claims of not having to pay a tax for something they don’t use was invalid because the sewer fee was not a tax.

Hessley countered with a court ruling that said the fee was considered a tax in Philadelphia, and another court ruling allowed individual Amish workers to forgo paying Social Security tax as the communities supported their disabled and retired workers.

Stapleford said that failure to pay was not a basis for religious beliefs, and Hessley said that if they hooked up to the system, the next generation might say “we might as well use it.”

In the end, all of the arguments were unnecessary, as Skerda ruled that nine were untimely, and must pay fees to the SGASA as well as attorney fees and sheriffs costs.

As Amish beliefs forbid personal ownership of property, all the property is held in trusts.

The fees to be paid to SGASA are:

Small Farm Trust, et al, $2,103.23

Briar Patch Trust et al, $2,103.23

Old Order Amish Church of Sugar Grove, $2,181.53

Hilltop Trust et al, $4,433.23

Rocky Lane Trust et al, $2,103.23

Maple Grove Trust et al, $4,433.23

Little Pine Tree Trust et al, $2,103.23

Little Ash Trust et al, $2,223.23

Skerda noted that the cases against two remaining trusts were almost identical, but the filings were made on a timely basis and therefore could move to further proceedings. They are Scenic View Trust et al and Shady Lane Trust et al.