A Dimock Twp. man once the face and voice of the national anti-fracking movement now has until late June to identify what reasonable accommodations will enable him to appear and answer questions from Cabot Oil & Gas in its breach of contract lawsuit against him.
Ray Kemble of Carter Road did not appear at last Friday’s afternoon hearing in Susquehanna County court as his most recent attorney, John Kotsatos, explained that his client is unable to sit for more than 15 minutes at a time while he continues to recover from a medical procedure.
Susquehanna County President Judge Jason Legg told Kotsatos to reappear before him June 28 with a doctor’s report as to how his client’s medical needs can be met in order for him to submit himself for deposition.
Kemble’s latest attorney, appearing as the replacement for the outgoing Rich Raiders who withdrew in early February after Kemble listed various grievances with his representation, assured Judge Jason Legg that Kemble was not attempting to avoid being deposed.
“It is Mr. Kemble’s intent to undergo a deposition,” Kotsatos told Legg.
Cabot attorney Amy L. Barrette pointed out that the act of sitting and answering questions from an attorney isn’t any more difficult than a variety of other life functions expected of any adult.
“He’s living his life and doing things,” Barrette countered. “There should be something we can do to go ahead and take the deposition.”
Also Friday, Legg ruled that Kemble’s close associate and housemate William Huston was a resident of New York and must be served by New York officials to appear for his deposition.
Legg reached his ruling on Kemble associate Huston’s residency after a lengthy and – at points – tedious series of encounters. Barrette had attempted to prove he was in fact a Pennsylvania resident attempting to dodge the subpoena. Huston represented himself, telling Legg he was unable to find a lawyer.
Cabot lawyers want to depose Huston, who is not a defendant in the case, as he helped Kemble prepare for several public appearances in which Cabot alleges Kemble violated a contract Kemble signed agreeing not to disparage the company.
During that testimony Huston made complaints mirroring those made by another Kemble associate deposed in January by Cabot attorneys, Craig L. Stevens, who lives in Virginia. Like Stevens, Huston termed Cabot’s desire to question him “stalking and harassment.”
“I have nothing to do with this case. I have nothing to do with Mr. Kemble signing an agreement of any kind with your company,” Stevens told Cabot attorneys in January. “I have nothing to do with him potentially violating that. So I consider this entire affair stalking and harassing, personally,” Stevens said.
But during his testimony Friday, Huston directly contradicted Stevens’ claims.
“We were his legal team when he did not have an attorney,” Huston told Barrette under questioning, adding that the two “don’t have a college degree between the two of us.”
After Stevens’ deposition, Cabot released cancelled checks showing fracktivist organizations paid him over $25,000 and Kemble over $15,000 to speak at anti-fracking events.
Throughout the afternoon, Huston repeatedly questioned why he was called into court. “I don’t have any knowledge of why I am here,” Huston said at one point.
“This is an invasion of my privacy,” he said.
As Kemble’s health problems have continued to grow over the years his reliance on friends like Stevens and Huston has increased, Huston said.
Huston admitted helping Kemble plan, organize and execute numerous public appearances and press conferences, including one conducted in the parking lot of the Dimock Baptist Church February 28 of last year. At that event Huston acted as a spokesman for Kemble and identified himself as his “next friend,” an English common law designation for someone who stands in for an incapacitated person.
Huston then said that the press was not to be trusted. “Almost every time I’ve been quoted by the press they got facts wrong,” Huston said.
Huston claimed to be under unyielding physical and electronic surveillance from Cabot and refused to verify his address to Legg in open court, instead reaching an agreement to pass it to him in a note.
“I believe my car may have a tracking device on it,” Huston said.
At the end of the day, Legg denied Barrette’s request to compel Huston to appear for the deposition as process had been served in Pennsylvania and not New York.
“They will be serving you, by the way,” Legg reminded Huston before adjourning court.
Cabot sued Kemble and a group of attorneys in August 2017 for breach of contract and filing nuisance lawsuits after he criticized the company after reaching a settlement as a result of an earlier federal court lawsuit. Kemble claims his statements are protected First Amendment speech.
Kemble and Cabot signed the agreement in 2012 after Kemble sued Cabot in 2009, also in federal court, for property damage and nuisances.