IPFS Vin Suprynowicz

The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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Bart Ross, a 57-year-old out-off-work Chicago electrician, blamed a jaw disfigured by cancer on doctors and the judge who dismissed his medical malpractice suit.

Usually appearing without a lawyer, Ross became a fixture in the state and federal courts of Chicago, comparing judges to “Nazis” and accusing them of treason for keeping his case from proceeding.

On Feb. 28, Ross broke into the home of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow. Nine days later, Ross shot himself during a traffic stop outside Milwaukee. Police said they found a suicide note in his van in which he confessed to breaking into Lefkow’s home and shooting the judge’s husband, Michael Lefkow, and the judge’s mother, Donna Grace Humphrey, 89, after he was discovered in a basement utility room. He then fled, leaving the judge to discover the bodies when she got home from work.

On May 18, Judge Lefkow testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, urging increased funding for the U.S. Marshals Service to protect judges.

More protection than was afforded during the days of John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde? Or during the days of the Vietnam and Civil Rights protests of the 1960s? Yet the judge is in complete denial when it comes to the assertion that any actions on the part of our modern-day courts have contributed to this perceived level of hostility.

While we should not and do not endorse any “open season” on judges by unhappy litigants, it seems the legislators might at least ask if there isn’t something about modern judicial behavior that’s leading to this increased sense of judicial danger.

Bart Ross’ actions cannot be justified. But did he receive a fair hearing in the courts? Let us assume for the moment that he did not -- since pro se litigants are ridiculed, treated impatiently, or barely tolerated, in general. Where can a wronged individual turn to have a judge charged with ignoring her sworn duty to see justice done, regardless of whether everyone has followed the proper “form”?

On May 18 in Washington City, Judge Lefkow also sought legislation to ban posting personal information about judges and other government officials on the Internet without their permission.

What next -- anonymous judges in black hoods?

In America, we are supposed to be governed by our fellow citizens -- not a special class of people living in isolation from the teeming masses. If our public servants can be endangered by the circulation of information about them which is available from public records, the answer is to stop government agencies from collecting such data -- not merely on judges and other officials, but on all of us. No one can acquire and circulate data which is never collected in the first place.

Should judge and police voter registrations should be by affidavit that “I live in the district in question”; no street address listed? Fine. And how about the address on their driver’s licenses? No one “forgets how to drive.” The one you got when you were 17 should be good for life, and who cares where you lived when you were 17? Nor is there any more need for a photo on a driver’s license than there is on a high school diploma. The first one I got, in 1967, bore no photo, and worked perfectly well. Let’s go back to that.

But if these privacy protections are to be made available to our public servants, that should happen only after these changes are first instituted for us, their masters.


But finally, and most dangerously, Judge Lefkow on Wednesday asked the help of Congress to bring to an end “truly dangerous” verbal attacks on judges which she said might lead to violence.

“Fostering disrespect for judges can only encourage those that are on the edge, or on the fringe, to exact revenge,” Judge Lefkow told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The judge cited the example of Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, appearing on ABC’s “This Week” earlier this month and blaming the federal judiciary for “The gradual erosion of the consensus that’s held our country together,” calling that “probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings.” Judge Lefkow said she was only asking the senators to “publicly and persistently repudiate” such “gratuitous attacks on the judiciary.” But come on. Lawmakers don’t merely voice opinions. They pass laws, which means that any “opinion” they express carries the implied threat that punishment will shortly follow.

“Whether liberal or conservative, I have never encountered a judge in the federal judiciary who can remotely be described as posing a threat, as Mr. Robertson said,” Judge Lefkow testified.

Certainly Judge Lefkow did not deserve what she has had to endure. But it is also nonsense to assume that we need a “climate” in which vigorous criticism of the judiciary for their political actions is in any way discouraged, or that Congress has any power or business attempting to regulate such constitutionally protected speech, even if the nut case in question had specifically cited the Rev. Robertson as his guiding light -- which of coure he did not.

But beyond that -- while again, this does not justify doing harm to judges or their families -- the Rev. Robertson has a good point.


One of the reasons the U.S. Senate is now involved in a heated debate over President Bush’s judicial nominations is that Americans are sick of following proper procedures to pass laws intended to maintain and restore our social fabric, only to have judges arbitrarily overturn the will of the people by detecting constitutional “penumbras” protecting trendy new “rights” the Founders never dreamed of -- while studiously ignoring such real and explicit, written-down rights as the right to carry a machine gun around town without any “license” or “permit” (Second and 14th Amendments) and the right to self-medicate as we choose without enduring any “War on Drugs” (see the Ninth Amendment.)

In our lifetimes, federal judges have abrogated the constitutional guarantee that “The accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury ... in all criminal prosecutions,” ruling it would excessively clog the cattle chutes to prison if judges and prosecutors had to treat the word “all” as though it meant, you know ... “all.” (Heavens, Congress might have to actually repeal some of their endless new mala prohibita.)Or consider the power of the common folk celebrated by the D.C. Court of Appeals when it held in U.S. vs. Dougherty in 1972 that “The pages of history shine on instances of the jury’s exercise of its prerogative to disregard uncontradicted evidence and instructions from the judge,” specifically commending juries who declined to enforce unjust laws in “the 19th century acquittals in prosecutions under the fugitive slave laws.”

No more. Today, most of our judges lie to jurors, instructing them they have no choice but to “enforce the law as I give it to you.” These judges participate in unconstitutional jury-stacking by seeing to it that potential jurors are questioned about whether they agree with the law, and removed from juries if they do not, eliminating the vital protection of juries truly randomly selected “on the country.”

(How would history have changed had those juries of the 1850s been culled of Abolitionists -- thereby being stacked in favor of conviction -- through “voir dire” questioning that dismissed anyone who wouldn’t swear in advance to “enforce the law as I explain it to you”?)Our federal judiciary makes it almost impossible for an average citizen to get a case heard without seeking representation by a “member of the bar” (witness the pathetic Bart Ross) -- an “officer of the court” who can be fined and cited for contempt for so much as raising questions of jurisdiction or the underlying constitutionality of the statute, thus effectively barring those matters from discussion.

(Yes, you can appeal to the Supreme Court -- while you cool your heels in jail for a few years -- if you’ve got half a million dollars.)

Such questions are in fact required to be resolved in detail before any other matters can proceed. Once defendants are deprived of the power to raise such constitutional challenges -- and make no mistake, every judge has taken a personal oath to personally defend the Constitution, not granting precedence to any lesser statutory law, not advising defendants “You may bring that up later, on appeal” -- the government’s courts become little more than a revolving door to the gray-bar hotel.

Yet Judge Lefkow would have Congress outlaw the publication of the above seven paragraphs of constitutionally protected speech, arguing such “harsh rhetoric is truly dangerous” to her and her kind.

Why? Because of what people might do if they learned the judges are in a conspiracy to deprive us of many of our constitutionally guaranteed rights?

Do you suppose that’s why the courts won’t enforce the Second Amendment?

Troubled souls stalking our judges are dangerous, yes. But the notion that the judiciary should make up the law as they go along, refusing to toss out any and every prosecution which infringes our rights -- and that Congress should make it illegal for us even to criticize them for it -- is far, far more so.