Jul 15 2009

Attorney Rubendall II

Salute to Someone Who Helped Start This Website

Charles W. Rubendall II has served for some time as outside counsel for Spectra Energy in central Pennsylvania.  He works for Keefer Wood Allen & Rahal, a law firm in Harrisburg.

Mr. Rubendall is the author of a huff-and-puff letter to landowners in May 2008 in which he suggested that landowners were not represented by an attorney — despite his knowledge to the contrary.

At the end of the letter (which, ironically, copied the landowners’ attorney) the Spectra Energy lawyer threw down a demand:   “… we expect your counsel to be active and responsive on your behalf so that we can proceed with negotiations in lieu of legal action.”

I marvelled as I read this piece of minor league writing.  Translating the Spectra Speech, Mr. Rubendall and Spectra Energy were really telling all the property owners who received this letter:  Listen up, bumpkins, we dictate terms because we have the power of eminent domain.  You accept what we offer and tell us you’re happy.  Got it!?

In a response to him that same month, I advised him:

“As you know, most folks are like mirrors – they reflect the way they are treated.  It is true that many of the Bedford folks live in a rural setting rather than the sophisticated, urban setting of Harrisburg.  But these are smart folks and you underestimate them at the peril of your client’s interest.  I am certain that Steckman Ridge, LP has placed much confidence in your ability to see this project to a successful conclusion rather than muck it up with poorly considered theatrics.”

What is noteworthy about his letter is that it was part of the tipping point for establishing this website and the unprecedented level of resistance among Bedford County property owners opposed to Spectra Energy’s seizure of our property rights.

Mr. Rubendall, who is more than a half century in age, prefers the youthful sounding nickname Chip or Chipper.  On one hand Chip is a diminutive of Charles.  On the other hand, such a nickname could also come from “chip off the old block” or perhaps “chip on his shoulder.”

According to his bio, Mr. Rubendall is a Yale University graduate who appears to show disdain for Pennsylvania juries.  He filed an injunction asking Federal Judge Kim R. Gibson to forbid Bedford County property owners from presenting various economic loss arguments as they sought just compensation because the jury would be “confused, misled and distracted … and waste time.”  (This is an excerpt of the actual wording presented to the judge.)

Presumably, there is no point in Spectra Energy’s Yale-educated contract lawyer wasting his time talking to Pennsylvania jurors — or to landowners — about economic loss issues that reduce or eliminate just compensation for the seizure of private property rights.

In practice, Attorney Rubendall and his client Spectra Energy believe that landowners are entitled to just compensation in theory — as long as they don’t actually try to achieve it.

At the end of the day, the good news is that Mr. Rubendall and his client Spectra Energy got what he wished for – an “active and responsive” set of landowners.  That, in turn, has led to a network of contacts in several states who are fighting to protect property rights at many different levels.

For that, we salute Mr. Rubendall and Spectra Energy.  Perhaps Mr. Rubendall and the firm he works for should consider providing a rebate to his client since he cost the company more in the long run.  And the meter is still running.

Rubendall Letter -- Click image to enlarge.

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