Wednesday, September 9, 1992
3:00 p.m. Jordan Lorence works at his desk, dealing with routine HSLDA tasks. His thoughts occasionally drift to his vacation plans next week with his family at Nag’s Head, North Carolina. Michael Farris is in Ohio, trying to negotiate settlement in a case in which the NCAA refused to allow a college to give an athletic scholarship to a home-schooled student. Debbie Stevenson, Mike’s secretary, brings Jordan an ominous-sounding letter from one of the school board attorneys in the Tennessee federal action HSLDA had recently filed. In spite of the federal lawsuit, one school district is going to prosecute the Floyd family for truancy in state court. “This is serious,” Jordan said. “We’ve got to get Mike on the phone.”
3:30 p.m. Mike listens to the letter and responds, “We’re going to have to go to federal court tomorrow and ask Judge Hull for a temporary restraining order.” Jordan agrees, “We’ve got to go nuclear. We’ve got to show that they can’t push us around.” Jordan and Mike go through the checklist of what will need to be done. Jordan will draft the documents at the HSLDA office. Debbie would assist and then send the documents via Federal Express to the local counsel’s office in Knoxville. Mike will fly from Ohio to Knoxville and ask Judge Hull to stop the prosecution. Jordan comments that it will be tough to put together all of the documents in such a short period of time, but that it can be done. Jordan and Mike have done this type of legal “strike force” action before.
4:00 p.m. The second storm hits. Michael Smith comes to Jordan’s office. “We’ve got trouble in West Virginia,” Smith says. “The truant officer appeared at the Nulls’ home. He doesn’t care that we have filed the federal lawsuit, and he is going to file truancy charges against the Nulls tomorrow in state court.” Jordan reeled backwards in stunned disbelief. The same thing was happening in West Virginia as in Tennessee. “Get Mike Farris on the phone,” Jordan said to Debbie. “We’ve got major trouble.”
4:10 p.m. Mike Farris listens in grim silence to the explosion of problems facing the families, then issues directions. “We’re going to have to try for two temporary restraining orders. I’ll go to Knoxville, and you go to Charleston.” Jordan began to pray. Asking for one temporary restraining order in less than a day was extraordinary. Trying to get two was“well”very, very difficult, especially when the attorneys drafting the papers were separated by hundreds of miles. Jordan and Mike know that God can help them accomplish this—He had already provided computers, fax machines, modems, jets, Federal Express, experienced people to work on the documents, and many families who regularly pray for HSLDA.
4:30-8:00 p.m. Jordan works feverishly on the TRO (temporary restraining order) documents, with able assistance from Debbie Stevenson and Sally Cowan. So many things need to be done. They contact the families to tell them what’s going on and gather information for important affidavits. Jordan tries to call the prosecutor in West Virginia, and gets his assistant. There are no guarantees that they won’t prosecute. The myriad of details involved in drawing up documents for five families in Tennessee and one in West Virginia simultaneously makes it hard to keep everything straight.
9:00 p.m. Jordan finishes the documents for the Tennessee TRO request. Debbie takes them to Dulles airport to get them on the Federal Express jet before it leaves. Mike Farris locates a hotel room in Ohio and logs in his computer to the HSLDA system. He needs to draft the crucial brief for the West Virginia case.
10:30 p.m. Jordan finishes the West Virginia documents. Miraculously, HSLDA has produced two complete sets of TRO documents in less than nine hours. Mike instructs Jordan to talk to the West Virginia prosecutor first thing in the morning. “File the TRO stuff if he does not agree to back off.” Jordan thinks, “All right, Ninja lawyers.”
Thursday, September 10, 1992
9:00 a.m. Mike Farris is in the air flying to Knoxville. Thomas and Rita Floyd (the family threatened with prosecution) will meet him at the local attorney’s office in Knoxville to sign documents. Jordan calls the West Virginia prosecutor. With the documents sitting in his briefcase and a plane reservation to Charleston, Jordan urges the prosecutor to back off. At first, the prosecutor declares he has “no choice” but to file. As the conversation continues, the prosecutor says that he needs to talk to the Attorney General's office in Charleston and promises to delay prosecuting for 24 hours. He closes the conversation with, “Don’t go anywhere now, Jordan.” Jordan hangs up and sighs with relief. “We’ve bought some time. I think they might be reasonable.” Jordan calls the Nulls in West Virginia with the good news.
10:00 a.m. Mike Farris meets the local counsel and the Floyds at the attorney’s office in Knoxville. The Federal Express package arrives with all of the documents drafted the night before. Mike drives to Greeneville, Tennessee, where Judge Thomas Hull sits.
2:00 p.m. Mike presents the TRO requests to Judge Hull. Rather than granting the order request immediately, Judge Hull orders all of the attorneys to come to his courtroom next Tuesday to discuss whether the judge should grant the TRO.
3:00 p.m. Jordan talks to the prosecutor in West Virginia. The prosecutor has been unable to reach the attorney general’s office. He agrees not to prosecute the Nulls until after he has discussed the matter with the attorney general’s office. The prosecutor reveals that he really wants no part of a federal lawsuit. “Your complaint is with the state law and the attorney general, not with the local school district. We just enforce the law.” Jordan rejoices at this turn of events. The Nulls are safe.
Friday, September 11, 1992
The school districts in Tennessee begin to retreat. Eventually, all five of them agree not to prosecute the families for truancy. The attorney general of Tennessee will defend the state law in federal court.
The West Virginia situation resolves itself the same way. The attorney general there will defend the home school law. Jordan and Mike call the various families and tell them the good news. The threat of prosecution is lifted. Mike Farris returns from Tennessee and goes home to spend time with his family after a hectic week. Jordan wraps up and thinks that the sands of the Nag’s Head beaches are more inviting than ever before. With everything secure, Jordan is ready for a vacation.