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TN reform lawsuit finds 3rd major abuse: Citations law unconstitutional for due process violation

Tennessee chief justice Roger Page, right, is being personally sued over the arrest of NoogaRadio reporter David Tulis covering the state judicial conference. (Photo Administrator of the Courts)
Radio journalist David Tulis, under arrest, carefully reads a criminal citation that in court filings he says is illegal for requiring a waiver of rights without notice. (Photo Franklin police department)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Tuesday, May 30, 2023 – A  federal lawsuit by a radio reporter against the state’s chief justice uncovers a third abuse against the public that lets police and jailers “lord it over innocent accused people by putting them in lockup before a judge has had a chance to look at the case,” the reporter says.

David Tulis of 96.9 FM NoogaRadio Network in Chattanooga is suing chief justice Roger Page and four other parties for false imprisonment and false arrest. He demands two injunctions in U.S. district court, one against Page and a second against city of Franklin, whose officer William Orange arrested Tulis Nov. 6, 2021, covering the Tennessee Judicial Conference.

The new public harm cited by Tulis emerges in his latest filing. Tulis, 63, who runs a law blog and airs a daily show about local economy and free markets, demands U.S. Judge Waverly Crenshaw declare the police citation statute at T.C.A. § 40-7-118 unconstitutional because it requires people to be committed to jail and booking prior to adjudication.

“Our godless and illegal machinery forces a person who is presumed innocent to go to the jail for mugshotting and fingerprinting even though no magistrate or judge has found probable cause,” Tulis says. “As far as anybody knows, there’s no case at all. It is an abrogation of your rights under the 5th amendment and under your Tennessee bill of rights to be imprisoned and jailed before any finding that a case exists as a matter of law. Really, really rotten citation – it doesn’t even give you notice you’re waiving constitutional rights when you sign it. Another outrage.”

Tulis and midstate bureau chief Christopher Sapp, of Sparta, covered the conference, but at the behest of Page officials, Franklin police ejected the team. Tulis refused to cooperate in what he declared a warrantless illegal arrest, and forced Orange to roll him out in an ambulance gurney. A court dismissed criminal trespass charges against him Dec.14, 2021.

On Friday Tulis filed an objection to a recommendation by magistrate Barbara Holmes that the case be dismissed as untimely. Tulis argues the case is timely filed because his jailing is a harm continuing after the date of his physical false arrest, putting the suit within deadline. He also says filing deadlines for damage suits “don’t control if irreparable harm by defendants is continuing daily, if not hourly.”

The legal reform activist is asking permanent injunctions be imposed on two abuses noted in the initial complaint. (1)  The first injunction would be a major shakeup of police activity statewide because it would extend the time it takes an officer to make an arrest. Compliance with the warrantless arrest statute would end what Tulis calls “a regime of general warrants statewide.” (2) Tulis asks the court to compel Page to obey state law and open to press and public the judicial conferences at which judges argue over legislation and give advice to the general assembly “and connive to deprive the people of their rights,” Tulis says. The meetings are subject to the open meetings law act and press protection provisions in the state bill of rights.

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