“…do it,” Nalley ordered. “Use it.”
Have you ever wondered what would happen if a judge, clothed in immunity, became so annoyed by an argument that he whipped out his Glock from under his robes and plugged the litigant between the eyes? Who hasn’t felt that, right?
Except Maryland Circuit Court Judge Robert C. Nalley, the same one who got caught deflating the tire of the miscreant who had the audacity to park in his space, acted upon it. No Glock, and it wasn’t actually at his own hand, but he gave the order. And Mr. Sheriff was only too happy to comply.
Via the Baltimore Post-Examiner, by way of Gideon, pro se litigant Devlon King was trying to argue his cause in a gun case, which had already proven sufficiently annoying to get him pushed from his trial judge to Nalley.
King began jury selection in front of Circuit Court Judge Amy J. Bragunier, the chief administrative judge in Charles County Circuit Court. Apparently Judge Bragunier has a very short fuse and she quickly got irritated with the defendant’s citing to legal precedent1, so she interrupted jury selection and sent it over to retired Judge Robert C. Nalley to complete jury selection.
Per Gid, King was a “sovereign citizen,” which means his arguments are always good for lulz, provided you aren’t the person whose job it is to address the insanity. If you aren’t clear what it means to be a sovereign citizen, then you don’t appreciate the fringes on the flag, conclusively proving you’re before a maritime court with no jurisdiction over the corporate entity that the government has imposed in place of your humanity. Heh.
Crazy though they may be, they remain two things. Human beings and Americans, meaning that you still don’t get to be so annoyed with their insanity that this happens:
The defendant was trying to cite a court case, and Nalley cut him off.
“Stop,” Nalley said, according to the transcript.
“… principles of common right and common reason are …” King said.
“Mr. Sheriff … ” Nalley said
“… null and void,” King continued.
“…do it,” Nalley ordered. “Use it.”
On Nalley’s order, a uniformed Charles County Sheriff’s Department officer pressed a button, which released a charge from an electronic device authorities had attached to King’s right leg. King crumpled to the ground in agony.
While King’s argument may have less than fully grounded in law, so too is that attachment of an “electronic device” to his right leg. A device? Like a shock collar? Like they use on dogs? Used on a pro se criminal defendant in a court in the United States of America? Per Gid:
Can they do this? They can, obviously, in the sense that they just did. But I’ve never heard of a security measure in courts where they put shock collars on defendants. That’s just the most horrifying method of ensuring compliance and subjugating those that appear before them, seeking justice. Usually, defendants are handcuffed in court for security reasons and that makes sense, but anything more than that requires a showing that the defendant is a threat.
But electrocution? That’s a shocker.
Maybe this is just how they roll in Maryland, but I’ve never heard of such a thing either. And despite thinking so hard I nearly sprained something, I can conceive of no lawful basis to impose corporal punishment on a litigant because he annoyed the judge. If he poses a threat of violence, he can be cuffed, even shackled, but that’s to prevent him from causing harm, not to shut him up or to teach him a lesson on how to behave in a manner that pleases the judge, upon pain of electrical shock.
Sure, there are times a defendant has been muzzled to stop outbursts in court, and it’s not uncommon for disruptive defendants to be removed from the courtroom, but King was defending himself pro se, as is his right. Just because he makes crazy arguments, frivolous arguments, really annoying arguments, provides no justification to cause him deliberate pain.
The insanity that happened in that courtroom, and no, I’m not talking about King’s sovereign citizen views but that a judge ordered a defendant shocked, with the added plus of Mr. Sheriff doing it, is beyond comprehension. Clearly, Nalley has no business on the bench, his magnificently intemperate order proving conclusively. But this is far deeper, far worse than one judge with anger issues. They use a friggin’ shock collar there!
As lawyers, we try desperately to make a crazy system grind as well as it possibly can, accepting the never-ending stream of flaws and brick walls of antagonism toward us and our clients, and trying to eke out whatever we can to preserve constitutional rights. But if I ever end up on a Maryland court and somebody tries to put a shock collar on my right leg, because, you know, that’s what they do there if my arguments piss off the judge a bit too much, I’m drawing a line.
And the worst part about this craziness is that it’s unclear that there is anything, anything at all, that King can do about it. So if you think sovereign citizens are nuts, consider that this is what happens in an American court. The crazy is not mutually exclusive.
Update: With the kind help of Susan Bryant, I’ve learned that there is a world in the trenches with which I am blissfully unfamiliar. Apparently, “stun belts” are hardly just a Maryland thing, and they’re also used in New York, despite the fact that I live such a shallow and empty legal life that I knew nothing about them.
And indeed, the New York Court of Appeals has approved their use, per People v. Buchanon, but only after “a finding of specific facts justifying the use of such a restraint. ” Whether a specific finding that the defendant is “really, really, REALLY, annoying” satisfies this test remains unclear.