A System of Your Own (Update)

Don’t like how the criminal justice system works? Think it’s replete with corruption and lies?  It just doesn’t do what you think it should do?  No problem. Just create one of your own!!!

In Bozeman, Montana, a group of locals decided to hold a meeting at the public library to decide what to do.  Via the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

A meeting is scheduled at the Bozeman Public Library at 1:30 p.m. Saturday with a presentation and vote to decide if a common law grand jury should be in Gallatin County, said Averil Heath, who is coordinating the effort. A similar meeting is planned at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Livingston Public Library for a common law grand jury in Park County.

“I believe that justice is not being served, and there is a great deal of corruption taking place and no one is being held accountable,”  [Averil] Heath said. “We were supposed to hold the people accountable and this is the mechanism we were given to hold all branches of the government accountable.”

What are the chances the American flag in the room will have fringes?  Ironically, Montana doesn’t use a grand jury system, which came as a relief to a great many ham sandwiches, but that hasn’t stopped disaffected folks from deciding to form their own.

“There is a move to do this in all the counties … in the United States, to return us to common law, which is where we were supposed to be all along,” Heath said.

The mantra of the sovereign citizen, which (lest there be any confusion whatsoever) is borne of a toxic mix of ignorance and insanity, is all about some fictional belief in the “common law.”  This is not because people who are unhappy with how government has developed and run things are necessarily wrong, but that the alternative isn’t to grasp hold of claims that this fictional “common law” is the true way.

We actually have a method for citizens to shed themselves of elected officials who fail to conduct the public’s business in an acceptable way: vote them out of office.  It’s hard to do? Well, sure it is, because a majority of people aren’t willing to vote the way you want them to. Whether this is a bug or feature is based on where you’re standing. If others felt as disaffected, they would join you. That they don’t agree doesn’t mean they’re stupid and foolish (although they may be), but that you lose. Suck it up.

But there’s something insidious about some group of whackos in Bozeman deciding to convene their own private legal system.

But Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert raised a number of questions about the proposed process.

According to Montana law, a district judge is the only person who can summon or draw a grand jury, Lambert said.

“I can’t recall the last time a grand jury was convened in Montana,” he said. “That’s not how criminal cases are filed in the state of Montana.”

Lambert said he would like to know who gets to convene a grand jury. If a group of people said it wanted a person prosecuted, Lambert said he, as the county attorney, could decide against prosecution.

“Who is going to prosecute the cases?” he asked.

It appears that Marty hasn’t thought this through very hard. If these unhappy folks decide to create their own grand juries, what’s to stop them from running their own trials with their own prosecutors and their own vision of process?  Once you break through the wall of sanity, there is no end in sight.

And in Bozeman, Montana, there is a slight chance that the same folks who favor convening their own common law grand juries might have weapons as well.  If Marty won’t do the job, then they can do it themselves.  They can arrest whoever they indict. They can do so at gun point and lock them in some sovereign basement. And after they convict them, they can impose whatever common law punishment they feel is appropriate. Perhaps the Bible can offer some guidance as to the appropriate measure of punishment?

Heath said a common law grand jury is legitimate.

She explained the decision to empanel such a jury would be up to those who attend Saturday’s meeting at the library. If the majority of those who attend vote in favor of the common law grand jury, then it’s a go, she said.

And if Heath happens to be the only person in the room, then she comprises a majority of one.  Good enough to start.

There are many who agree with Heath that the system has been corrupted beyond repair and who believe that it’s time to “reboot,” as if pressing a button will return us to the Halcyon days of the republic.  Some of those who think this way, like Heath, are certain that some natural law gives them a natural right to invent wild theories of sovereignty and thus remove them from the “control” of an illegitimate government, if not the social contract.

As much as you might hate the current management of the legal system, would you be happier with Averil Heath running the show?  If so, you can pick up your tin foil hat on the way out.  The alternative to bad isn’t necessarily better. Sometimes it’s just plain nuts.

Update:  Per KBZK, the idea “passed” with overwhelming support of the 40 people at the library, with only three voting against the idea.

On Saturday, inside the Bozeman Public Library library roughly 40 people discussed the legality of common law grand juries.

“I’m going to release people from jail that are not criminals that are being there unjustly,” Common Law Grand Jury Administrator Joaquin Denoreta-Folch said.

Organizers say the people are the fourth branch of government and believe citizens should be the ones to file criminal cases.

And the plan is to “take back the courts”:

“When we go to the judge like we’re doing in New York, we are going to grab him by the ear and say ‘you listen here, we the people are the kings. We the people, each and every one of you is the ruler and king of your life. Therefore they said that the rule of law is what our founding fathers says you no longer call the grand jury you hear me.'”

What the reference to New York is supposed to mean isn’t clear, but these are quotes so there is necessary connection between what’ said and reality.  And if the quotes don’t do it for you, read the comments to the story from the locals.

40 thoughts on “A System of Your Own (Update)

  1. Matt B

    In related news, two prison gangs are also holding public meetings in Bozeman at the same time with a similar purpose, but open bars.

  2. John Neff

    As you have said it is a political process. This group is probably very small and has little or no political power and in most sitiuations such groups are ignored. This group was not ignored because they came up with a unusual approach that the newspaper was willing to report.

    1. SHG Post author

      You might be surprised to learn that there are more crazies out there than you realize. The problem is that they don’t always wear their tin foil hats outside the bunker.

      1. John Neff

        I know a great deal about raving nutjobs ability to interfere with a thoughtful and deliberative process.

    2. Mark W. Bennett

      “This group is probably very small and has little or no political power and in most situations such groups are ignored.”

      Mao told us whence political power grows and, as our host suggested, this group is probably armed.

      Unfortunately for them, they’re not as well armed as another group that thinks its grand jury is the only real one. If it comes to a showdown, that’s what will determine which grand jury is “legitimate” and which is a criminal enterprise.

  3. Ted Folkman

    “what’s to stop them from running their own trials …”

    I think some groups have actually done this, e.g., a “citizen’s grand jury” “indicted” President Obama, and a “court” then “tried” and “convicted” him of–well, I’m not really sure what.

    I find the crazy people’s notions about sheriffs and grand juries amusing. Both institutions were mechanisms for the king–the central government, back in the day–to exercise centralized control over the country instead of leaving a community’s affairs to the local bigwigs. And the grand jury, while it occasionally acts as a brake on the government, is in its origins and even today in practice a secret and inquisatorial body aimed at giving the central government a tool for ferreting out crime. It’s odd that the crazy people have chosen these two institutions to latch on to.

    1. alan

      Ted: The “citizen’s grand Jury” you refer to is based in Ocala, Florida (of course Florida!) and was formed at the instigation of Larry Klayman- a lawyer. Proof that a bar license does not protect one from idiocy. Mr. Klayman was also the victor in the recent federal court case which held the NSA programs were unconstitutional, but has been tilting at windmills for a long time before that.

        1. alan

          Yeah, it’s huge, and I applaud him for it. But it’s more likely the blind squirrel finding his one nut then any indication of real lawyering ability.

  4. pml

    So does anyone know what happened at the meeting? I have looked online but cannot find out what the outcome was.

    Maybe they ran out of tinfoil and had to go home?

    1. jahigginbotham

      Google “gallatin common law grand jury”.

      The cited newspaper article has comments by at least one person who does not keep up with the latest legal ideas:
      “this group seems intent on some sort of financial scam where they issue indictments at will, and then bill the County coffers and the UNCONVICTED indictees for their “Services””

  5. Allen

    Idiot. It’s the Courts of Chancery, not Common Law, that will save us. And our flags will be extra-frillierly fringed.

    1. SHG Post author

      Damn, it’s hard to keep those straight. And don’t forget, the filly fringe must be gold, or they’re commies (I think).

  6. Pingback: "Efforts under way to convene 'common law grand juries'" - Overlawyered

  7. william doriss

    Have not been to Bozeman, but I have been to Denver, and points west. This Denoreta-Folch fellow says the magic word: New York. That’s guaranteed to catch SHG’s attention. Come to think, this fellow traveller sounds more like a New Yorker than a Mountain Man fromm Montana. Actually, Sicily or some other Mediterranean country would be more accurate. Perhaps the founding fathers he’s talking about are the Roman emperors and senators? Anyhow, we wish him a lot of luck in Bozeman. Hope he has a long rifle, or two. That’s how they settle things in Montana, we hear.

  8. the other rob

    Strangely, English law does provide for a non-lunatic version of what nutters such as these claim to be trying to achieve.

    There, one can bring a “Private Criminal Prosecution”. The case is heard under criminal law, in a real court, with a real judge, real lawyers and real penalties (including incarceration) but the prosecution is funded privately, rather than by the state (which is not permitted to act as a gatekeeper, either).

    Such cases are very expensive and therefore rare, but they do happen

    1. SHG Post author

      I often wonder why people offer irrelevant tangential comments like this. But then I remember why. I do not, on the other hand, wonder how such matters are handled in Uganda.

  9. the other rob

    It was rather tangential, as written. Apologies for that.

    The (marginally) more relevant part, which I failed to include, is an observation that while we mock people such as these, they may have a point – to some extent. There is a degree of justified frustration with the state’s decisions on who to prosecute and who not to prosecute, particularly when those not prosecuted are in government or otherwise perceived to be “connected”.

    I find it interesting that at least one Western country, with a justice system upon which ours was based, has seen fit to codify in law an alternative to the state as absolute gatekeeper of criminal prosecutions. This makes the nutters in question appear slightly less tin-foil-hatty and causes me to wonder how a similar provision might work here.

    1. SHG Post author

      There are a great many serious, intelligent people who share many of their concerns and frustrations. The difference is that they don’t take it upon themselves to create their own system out of bizarre, baseless, wild conspiratorial fictions. Before comparing what appears in this post with other countries or systems, it’s worthwhile to have a bit more of a background in the sovereign citizen movement (see this, for example). It’s totally nuts.

      So to your point, while there may be good reasons to share in this movement’s concerns, there is absolutely nothing about this “movement” that otherwise bears any similarity to any extant systems on this planet, galaxy or universe.

      1. the other rob

        You’ll get no argument from me about their nuttiness. Also, as you have noted, the gatekeeper / comparison with English law thing is tangential to your post so I shall drop it and hope that you are someday moved to write a post considering it.

      2. Claude Akins

        “There are a great many serious, intelligent people who share many of their concerns and frustrations. The difference is that they don’t take it upon themselves to create their own system out of bizarre, baseless, wild conspiratorial fictions.”

        The mildly deranged are as entitled to their gestures as are the supremely educated. A blog or a harangue at town meeting, it doesn’t much matter what you’re the author of when Officer Friendly is cramming a fist in your arse.

  10. John Barleycorn

    There was a young lad from Alaska, Schaffer Cox who was recently given
    25 years to refine his theories. He conducted his grand jury in the back room of a Denny’s in Fairbanks presumably over coffee and the grand slam breakfast for dinner.

    I think he found his way onto the radar screen by giving speeches in Montana.

    I hope they are paying attention in Montana and decide to hold their grand juries in a bar over whiskey for breakfast instead of breakfast for dinner.

      1. John Barleycorn

        Yup that would be him. Including the e.

        Was an interesting case. He had a few friends that did not get sentenceced to write repeatively on the chalk board for the same duration nor even close.

        It also involved a rather colorful informant who is now getting paid to sell used cars for the Gov’ment while in witness protection. Presumably not in Montana.

        My guess is there will be a book out soon.

        You planing on ‘Moving to Montana soon? If you are don’t forget your dental floss.

          1. John Barleycorn

            Well with any luck at all they are meeting at Joes Tavern in Billings as we speak discussing
            minds totally controlled and doing as they are told until the rights to them are sold and stuff like that.

            It’s about time this whole people are property and all that jazz gets sorted out before the President gets a throne instead of an office and the Supreme Court starts walking around Georgetown with golden tassels atop their newly designed walking staffs.

            Then perhaps we can we can start concentrating on them Zombie Wolves in Yellowstone before they completely take over and start spreading out into the Bad Lands.

  11. Turk

    Ahh, yes, the good old fashioned citizen’s committee doing what it feels is the right thing.

    Seems we’ve been down that road before, notably in the south, with a few cross burnings and lynchings to show for it.

    We currently have the worst system of justice. Except for all the others.

    1. SHG Post author

      We currently have the worst system of justice. Except for all the others.

      I despise that expression, both because it’s not necessarily true and it doesn’t mean ours can’t be far better.

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