My 3½-year project on illegal “traffic stops” in Chattanooga is entering a phase of litigation planning to halt Jim Crow in Tennessee upheld by the courts of appeal.
The planning involves careful study of the carrier statute in the Tennessee code, a thin body of law supported by the much thicker motor carrier law.
The city is bumbling about trying to show it has the authority to do “traffic stops” seized by presumption from other parties without their opposition. The Chattanooga city attorney’s office has been unable to fulfill my open records request for documentary proof that it has authority to enforce the state driver license statute at Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 55, chapter 50.
I have asked for copies of any contracts, covenants, delegation orders or agreements showing the city has authority to enforce the driver’s license statute.
Enforcement power belongs to state government. By what means does State of Tennessee allow regulation of driver licenses? On what authority does Chief David Roddy enforce this law in his myriad arrests of blacks, the poor, immigrants, widows and orphans, aliens and strangers — and the rest of us? My open records request is nearly a fool’s errand. It is a maxim of law that authority and power cannot be delegated, only given.
The authority is given by law to the department of safety and homeland security. I cited the law, and ask city attorney Phil Noblett to show me the agreement giving Chattanooga power to enforce that law via increasingly notorious “traffic stops.”
Many evils arise from the “transportation statute arrest,” which is a more accurate name for the euphemism “traffic stop.” The use of commercial statutes to “regulate” people not in commerce is how Jim Crow operates today across the U.S. The protests seething in Chattanooga and across the country and around the world over police immunity and violence are, in fact, against the precise power we have identified as judicially approved but extra-legal and unconstitutional.
‘Operating without a license’
In City of Chattanooga v. Jackson, 1938, city court convicted Ernest Jackson “for operating an automobile as a common carrier without a license or permit as provided by ordinance passed in conformity with” state law. The case focuses on whether the city authority over carriers is interrupted by a change in law pertaining to the public utilities commission (no longer in existence).
Of interest to us is the limit on municipal authority. It is not upon private use of cars or trucks. It is only upon the regulated use by people in commerce as carriers.
Municipalities have a proprietary interest in their streets; they are burdened with the maintenance of streets and charged with the duty of regulating traffic thereon. The municipal governments of the state are familiar with their local traffic problems and their ability to provide means for street maintenance. The extension of regulatory power over motor vehicles throughout the state to the Public Utilities Commission conveys no implication of an intention to deprive municipalities of power to regulate the use of their streets by motor carriers for hire within the corporate limits. Both are regulatory measures, cumulative in their effect, and both may be administered for the safety and convenience of the public. City of Chattanooga v. Jackson, 172 Tenn. 264, 111 S.W.2d 1026, 1027 (1938)
Two points of immediate interest. Regulation of for-profit use of roads in commerce is required in the U.S. for the “safety and convenience of the public,” that is, the common citizen or private person. The streets exist primarily for the citizen, the general public. Use of the roads in transportation is a secondary interest. Commerce is subject to taxation and regulation through privilege statues or ordinances.
The state regulates transportation. City of Chattanooga regulates shipping, too, having proximity to its own streets, familiarity with them and the “ability to provide means for street maintenance.”
Primary use of highways: Private use under ‘common right’
Chattanooga has no authority to enforce the driver license statute at chapter 50 of Title 55, motor and other vehicles. Phil Noblett, city attorney, will find no document allowing it — no such grant exists, no such delegation or order exists. The driver license is wholly a federal issue, not a municipal issue.
The right to travel is deemed by the white legal political establishment a crank “sovereign citizen” issue, dismissable without merit. That’s district attorney Neal Pinkston did when I put his office under Tennessee transportation administrative notice. The sovereign citizen catcall, however, is upon government — upon people in office who think the law doesn’t apply to them. Yet, it does, and it acts to limit their “law enforcement” activities. The boundary of law, however, they high-handedly reject.
The law imposes duties on haulers, on the art of making a living on the road itself, with the pavement and its stripe lines being the principal place of business. This business “has been definitely excluded from the category of private or personal rights arising from citizenship.”
The import of the “regulation, supervision and control” of contract haulers expressed in the caption is affected by the nature of the subject to which it is applied. The business of using the public highways for profit, earned by transporting persons and property for hire, has been definitely excluded from the category of private or personal rights arising from citizenship. Recent decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States have determined certain fundamental principles concerning the use of the highways. One is “that the primary use of the state highways is the use for private purposes; that no person is entitled to use the highways for gain as a matter of common right.” Hoover Motor Express Co. v. Fort, 167 Tenn. 628, 72 S.W. (2d) 1052, 1055. The statement and definition of the terms and conditions upon which a privilege, not a matter of common right, may be exercised is, we think, within the declared purpose of regulation and does not amount to prohibition. In such a case the prevention of an unauthorized exercise of the privilege is clearly implied in the statement of the purpose to regulate it. State v. Harris, 168 Tenn. 159, 76 S.W.2d 324, November 1934.
What is subject to the police power? Privilege. Are “common rights” subject to regulation? No. The primary use of the highway is for “private purposes.” That is, for unregulated, untaxed, non-permitted private and personal and pleasure uses of the road, with the user of the car or truck having to give account to no one for anything, a person who cannot be stopped except for a crime committed in the officer’s presence or an arrest or search warrant.
Tennessee transportation administrative notice makes these points clear, and puts all the material in one place. The city, county, state of Tennessee, Red Bank, East Ridge and Dayton are under this notice, as well as district attorney Neal Pinkston. They are liable and have a known legal duty to properly enforce the law regulating carriers, and are liable for damages if they don’t stop applying it to people using the road “for private purposes.”