Judicial reformPolitical figuresWarrantless arrest

Critic says we are wrong about ‘open’ TN judicial conferences

Franklin, Tenn., cop William Orange and others conspire to “trespass” two journalists who are covering a judicial conference that by law is open to the public. (Photo Franklin PD)

The following exchange takes a little space — and your time — but gives us a way to deal with criticisms of our work to cover the Nov. 6, 2021, Tennessee judicial conference at which Christopher Sapp and I are falsely imprisoned, and in which I am arrested and criminally charged. Our critic — a hearty Texan — is scandalized by our work, and says we err on Tennessee law.
His tone is, shall we say, warm. — DJT

Change law to codify your desires

Perhaps you could engage your brains to grasp a few concepts:
(1)  Just because the Tennessee Municipal Judges Conference (hereinafter referred to as “the Conference”) is defined by statute does NOT ipso facto make the Conference a “governing body of a public body.”  For example, I live in Texas, and here the governing bodies, at both the statewide and local levels, of the Republican and Democrat political parties are defined in the Texas Election Code, but they most definitely are NOT public bodies and most definitely are NOT subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act or the Texas Open Records Act, with very few exceptions for the conduct of the Primary elections.
(2)  Just because the Tennessee General Assembly allocates taxpayer funds for municipal judges from around the State to attend the conference does NOT ipso facto make the Conference a “governing body of a public body.”  The Tennessee General Assembly undoubtedly allocates taxpayer money to pay jurors to attend jury deliberations, but those meetings most definitely are NOT subject to the Tennessee Open Meetings Act or the Tennessee Open Records Act (or whatever the correct name for it is).
(3)  Just because the Tennessee General Assembly mandated that the Conference develop a set of policy recommendations for the General Assembly does NOT ipso facto make the Conference a “governing body of a public body.”  Besides, you could always get a copy of whatever their policy recommendations WERE by using your state’s Open Records Act, so why go through the hassle, inconvenience, and expense of making a scene and being arrested, strip-searched, and thrown into a cage?  Seems completely idiotic to me.  Maybe it’s for the clickbait on YouTube, whatever, I hope it was worth it!
(4)  Even if none of those were the case, in my opinion the Conference is still not a “governing body of a public body” because (a) they collectively govern NO citizen of Tennessee, (b) they collectively pass no law, statute, ordinance, regulation, tax, fee, fine, or other restriction on ANY Tennessee citizen and collectively do not directly impinge on ANY aspect of ANY Tennessee citizen’s life, (c) they do not have regular public meetings for which they have created agendas and posted them, and (4) they have NO budget whereby they spend ANY taxpayer money other than the costs of the annual conference, and that’s only if the Legislature does not pay those expenses directly.  And even if they WERE a “governing body,” of WHAT “public body” are they a “governing body?”  The General Assembly?  I don’t buy that, the governing bodies of the General Assembly are the State Senate and the State House.
(5) Just because the Tennessee General Assembly stated that it is “the policy of this state that the formation of public policy and decisions is public business and shall not be conducted in secret” does NOT mean that they intended the Tennessee Open Meetings Act to apply to the Conference.  If that were the case, then why would it not apply to the Tennessee Bar Association or the Tennessee Realtors’ Association or any OTHER association, lobbying firm, or other group of individuals meeting privately who gather to brainstorm on legislation that they want to see the actual publicly elected legislators enact, and to submit those recommendations to those legislators?  Aren’t all of THEM meeting in “conclaves behind the locked doors of private venues to help legislators formulate public policy?”  Yes, they are.
(6) You claim that, “The claim and exercise of a constitutional right cannot thus be converted into a crime.”  Absolutely, it can.  You don’t get to claim that you are exercising your constitutional right ANYWHERE in the country that YOU choose to!  Can I go into a theater and yell, “Fire?”  No, that is a crime.  Can I go to the Well of the U.S. House, clean my long gun, and refuse to leave?  No, that is a crime.  Can I go to your daughter’s wedding, start reciting the Constitution in the middle of the ceremony, and refuse to leave?  Of course not, that’s a crime.  Your guy went into the Conference, on PRIVATE property, and was asked to leave.  In every state in America, if you are asked to leave private property and fail to do so, that is a crime, it’s called “criminal trespass.”  And there doesn’t HAVE to be a reason for the request to leave, it can be any reason or even NO reason.  Your guy committed a crime, but you want praise and money from me?  Nope, doesn’t work that way.  I am in favor of government transparency, but I am also in favor of following the law.  WHY give the bastards the SATISFACTION of throwing you into a cage?  To bring about change?  You can already do that by suing the Conference simply by their demanding that you leave their meeting, you got that on videotape, and take your chances in state court, you didn’t have to get arrested to have a civil case.
I’m sure you’ll say, “Well, if these Conferences can meet on private property and eject anybody they don’t want to be there, then we won’t ever know what they did.”  First of all, yes you will know what they did, as stated previously you can use your state’s Open Records Act to find out EXACTLY what recommendations these Conferences made to your state legislators.  Second, if you don’t want them meeting on private property, or if you want to force private-property owners who rent a venue to a Conference to allow the press in the Conference, then GO CHANGE THE LAW to codify your desires.  If you can manage THAT, then I WILL give you money, $500.  In the mean time, be prepared to play “stupid game, stupid prize” and continue to have to spread your butt checks after getting arrested.

Midstate bureau chief Christopher Sapp defends project

Jay Hirsch, left, and Christopher Sapp, NoogaRadio Network midstate bureau chief, talk about the law after filing documents with the state supreme court and the attorney general’s office in Nashville. (Photo David Tulis)

Dear P.W.

First of all, thank you for showing interest in your response…we really DO appreciate the feedback.  In response, we’d like to take the opportunity to provide you with more information which could change your current opinion on the matter.

In your email to David you correctly cited the TN Open Meetings Act law as found at TCA 8-44-102.

The Tennessee Open Meetings Act defines a “meeting” as “the convening of a governing body of a public body for which a quorum is required to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision.” A “governing body” is “any public body [consisting] of two or more members, with the authority to make decisions for or recommendations to a public body on policy or administration.”  Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-44-102.

You went on to suggest and opine that the judges were there voluntarily, associating together in private, as if this was a private meeting of the Tennessee Bar Association or something.

So when a bunch of judges get together to hear a lecture or take a class, that is NOT a “governing body” at all, that is just a bunch of private individuals exercising their own consitutional rights of freedom of association to pursue their educational needs, just like if all the county auditors in Tennessee got together for a meeting, that meeting would NOT be subject to the Tennessee Open Meetings Act so they would be well within their rights to regulate who is in attendance.

Had that been the case, Mr. Tulis and I would agree and would not have attempted to make entry.  Just so you know, Mr. Tulis and I do our homework and engage our brains before we proceed to engage our mouths to suggest something that would mislead or misinform our listeners.

The Tennessee Municipal Judges Conference (while indeed educational) is but one of six (6) such official bodies created by the Legislature TCA 17-3-301.  According Title 17 chapter 3 of the Tennessee Code, all such conferences are essentially tasked with the following mandates:

(a) The conference shall meet annually for the consideration of any and all matters pertaining to the discharge of the official duties and obligations of its several members, to the end that there shall be a more prompt and efficient administration of justice in the courts of this state. TCA 17-3-104

It is the duty of the conference to give consideration to the enactment of laws and rules of procedure that in its judgment may be necessary to the more effective suppression of crime and thus promote peace and good order in the state. To this end, a committee of its members shall be appointed to draft suitable legislation and submit its recommendations to the general assembly.  TCA 317-3-107

If you’re not already aware, government officials sometimes have a tendency to lie…especially when caught, in flagrante delicto, doing something they shouldn’t otherwise be doing!   If you don’t know, it is the stated public policy of our state, as declared by our General Assembly at TCA 8-44-101 that:

The general assembly hereby declares it to be the policy of this state that the formation of public policy and decisions is public business and shall not be conducted in secret.

This part shall not be construed to limit any of the rights and privileges contained in the Constitution of Tennessee, Article I, § 19.

So, while John Crawford and Bryan Walker asserted to the local Franklin City Police that the conference was a “members only educational conference,” this was (at best) a material misrepresentation knowingly and willfully made as an intentional deception, deflection, and misdirection in avoidance of the truth!

Indeed, the Conference itself is a “members-only” public body no different from Congress.  That said, it is STILL a “public body” which makes public policy recommendations to another public body [ie. General Assembly, Advisory Commission on the Rules of Practice & Procedure, etc.] as defined by TCA 8-44-102 and previously affirmed by our own TN Supreme Court in Dorrier v. Dark, 540 S.W.2d 658.  As such, the Conference IS subject to the Tennessee Open Meeting Act and attendance by the Press and Public pursuant to TN Const art 1 § 19.

In enacting the Tennessee Open Meetings Act, the General Assembly declared it to be “the public policy of the state that the formation of public policy and decisions is public business and shall not be conducted in secret.”  T.C.A. § 8-44-101.  As recognized by the Tennessee Court of Appeals, “Our Open Meetings Law is perhaps one of the most comprehensive and extensive in the nation.  There are no exceptions except those situations which may be in conflict with the constitution.” Lakeway Publishers, Inc. v. Civil Service Board, 1994 WL 315919 (Tenn. Ct. App.).  Ironically, the General Assembly itself is not subject to this law.  See Mayhew v. Wilder, 46 S.W.3d 760 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2001).

You went on to say:
And by the way, police do NOT have to get an arrest warrant signed by a judge to arrest you for a crime that they WITNESS you committing!  How do you not KNOW that?  Do you think that if you were robbing a bank and the police saw you do that they would have to go find a judge to sign a piece of paper and in the mean time let you do whatever you want?  Of course not!  You WILL lose your lawsuit, and you looked like an absolutely crazy fool.

Police officers have 11 criteria and conditions under which they may affect an arrest without a warrant, per TCA 40-7-103.  A “Public Offense” must therefore violate law.  Moreover, “The claim and exercise of a constitutional right cannot thus be converted into a crime.” Evelyn Miller, Appellant, v. United States of America, Appellee, 230 F.2d 486 (5th Cir. 1956)   As such, the arrest of Mr. Tulis exercising his 1st Amendment Right as a member of the Press as well as those secured by the 9th Amendment was a violation of his civil rights, done under color of authority, color of employment, and color of law.

Lastly, we finally uncovered the “smoking gun” that evidences the fact that judges ARE in fact crafting legislation and making public policy recommendations to the General Assembly.  This, I have included as an attachment, but which you can download for yourself from the official Tennessee Supreme Court website for yourself at the following link.

You may also want to take a peek at the McCaleb v. Long controversy still percolating in the Federal Courts over this very same subject.  In this instance, McCaleb took our place as plaintiff in the case because the attorney involved thought Mr. Tulis was too controversial a figure to take up our cause.  In fact, it was me who suggested that the Liberty Justice Center find another substitute plaintiff to lead the charge if he found me and Mr. Tulis too unsavory to be unpalatable to his firm…which he did!  Sadly, the attorney lacked the testicular fortitude and backbone to take on the Tennessee Supreme Court itself, opting to target the Advisory Commission instead.   Remember:  Attorneys must all bow the knee and kiss the ring of fealty in exchange for their law license.  Mr. Tulis and I do not have such infirmities as members of the Press, consequently, we’re having to go the course alone.

Again, I wish to thank you for your feedback and I sincerely hope that you will review the information I’ve provided and afford it the level of consideration and contemplation it deserves.  Every state in the Union has enacted “Sunshine Laws” for a reason.  If we are to remain a free People with a Republican Form of Government as envisioned by the “Guarantee Clause” of US Const. art. 4 § 4, we simply cannot allow judges to meet in secret conclave behind the locked doors of a private venue, under armed guard no less, conspiring together to craft public policy recommendations at public expense outside of the watchful eye of the Press and Public.

If you truly do support 1st amendment auditors with your wallet, please consider becoming an ongoing financial supporter of Mr. Tulis and this station as we continue fighting for liberty, justice, government transparency, and the accountability of our public servants.  We would appreciate your support and patronage!

Most Respectfully,

Christopher Sapp
Mid-State Bureau Chief
NoogaRadio 96.9

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