You've heard the story before, or seen it on Lifetime: An American from the heartland, a proud wife and mother full of dreams and free of cynicism, is unhappy with the way the world is going and works to change it, all by herself if necessary, enduring the scorn of the godless haters but ultimately persevering against all odds. Sylvia Driskell, a 66-year-old Nebraskan, is like one of those down-home heroines, an icon who stepped out of a soft-focus Thomas Kinkade painting. Except her chosen crusade is homophobia, she claims to be an "ambassador" for God and Jesus Christ, and she is suing on Their behalf to get homosexuality declared a sin.
Painstakingly written in elementary-school-teacher-style cursive, the seven-page complaint, filed on May 1, teeters on a knife's edge between old-fashioned prudishness, hate, and incoherence.
"I'm sixty-six years old, and I never thought that I would see the day in which our great nation and our great state of Nebraska would become so compliant to the complicity of some peoples' lewd behavior," she writes in a relatively lucid bit. She does get a bit more muddled later on:
"Your honor, I've heard the boasting of the defendant: the homosexuals on the world news; from the young, to the old; to the rich an [ sic] famous; how they were tired of hiding in the closet, and how glad they are to be coming out of the closet," she writes. According to her logic, the fact that they had to hide their behavior from a disapproving, prejudiced society is proof that what they do is a sin. "Why else would [gays] have been hiding in the closet?" she asks.
She's suing under Section 1983 of Title 42 of the US Code, which, ironically, is meant for people who want to sue state and local officials for violating their rights. But as you'd expect, this bizarre suit won't get a day in court.
Sarah Jeong, a legal scholar and journalist, said most cases filed without an attorney are thrown out for failing to state a claim. This one by Driskell won't pass legal muster, either. It'll get thrown out on the first page alone, for obvious reasons.
"A pro se plaintiff must only represent themselves," Jeong says. "[Driskell] cannot be counsel to someone else because it is the unauthorized practice of law on the behalf of God as a client, also God never signed any papers allowing him to be represented by said lady."
However, sometimes people filing their own suits can cause a lot of trouble for lawyers. Last month, a "Floridian-American" named Tamah Jada Clark filed an epic, expletive-laden rant against a judge, which capped off a long legal battle that a bunch of attorneys were forced to treat seriously and filed briefs about. Although she didn't win her crazy suit, Clark arguably got the last laugh due to both her excellent writing skills and near-genius use of "lol."
In an even more impressive example, in December a man named Bobby Chen represented himself, filed a partially handwritten petition, and actually convinced the Supreme Court to hear his case. After that, he disappeared. Unfortunately, by the time he reemerged with a high-profile attorney in tow, SCOTUS said it was too late.
Driskell couldn't be reached by phone. A man answered a call placed to the residence listed on her complaint, although he said she was not available.
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