ChristendomJudicial reform

Judges vote to deny expungements using ‘discretion’ for ‘veracity,’ targeting activists

Preston Setle gets into my car as we head to the Sevier County courthouse for his trial by jury Jan. 19. To cops and courts, his interest in handling his own case and fighting due process abuse is a threat. (Photo David Tulis)

The Tennessee judicial conference focusing on sovereign citizens proposes to put expungements in their criminal cases be made subject to judicial opinion. This is the resolution emerging from the conference that had me arrested Nov. 6, 2021.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024 — Tennessee judges led by former chief justice Roger Page want to delete a segment of Tennessee society keenly interested constitutional rights and liberty.

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio Network

They dub these people “sovcits,” or sovereign citizens. The term is a slander borrowed from activists who describe themselves as “sovereigns” under the natural law theory that undergirds American constitutionalism. Sovereign citizens are, according to training in police departments nationwide, a scourge and lethal danger.

The judges scoop into their wide net not just the most outspoken and sometimes violent patriot activists who have shot and killed cops, but pro se litigators and rights defenders such as people connected with my NoogaRadio Network on 96.9 FM in Chattanooga.

The judges at the Nov. 6, 2021, judicial conference for municipal court officeholders drafted a resolution supporting a bill in the general assembly that targets these sorts of people following proceedings in city court.

The conference topic is “sovereign citizens” with a secret speaker denouncing such activist defendants and plaintiffs. He explains how judges should handle them in court. The group settles on a narrow remedy to harass such people — let expungements following a dismissed case or after a conviction be conditional and under the purview of the judges, trained to abuse this segment of Americans who seek to restore the constitution.

Such a control would let judges prevent expungements such as in my criminal case for trespassing, dismissed as lacking probable cause by sessions judge M.T. Taylor in Williamson County (near Nashville).

That judges vote on proposed legislation and seek to influence the general assembly in the nature of the Tennessee code puts conference activities squarely under the open meetings act.

The resolution says expungement is subject to “the sound discretion of the court” and is based on the “direct observation of the credibility’ of the person by the judge.

 Expungement is like God’s forgiveness of a sinner. The process deletes the record and allows the person to claim a clean record, with no arrest, no legal process against him having occurred.

The proposal is pernicious and prejudicial against that part of the public that the judges should be in earnest to allay and console by proper adjudication. Tennessee judges in many, many instances act summarily and prejudicially against defendants, especially if the judge puts them into the category of “sovereign citizen.”

High view of callings

The meeting at which I am arrest Nov. 6, 2021, is for city court judges. They hold themselves to high standard. According to the latest benchbook for municipal judges, “Judge Godbold said, *** the small claims and traffic court is the only contact most people will ever have with the court system. How you act in public will have a far greater impact on how people perceive the judiciary than how I act. Nobody knows who I am. The entire city you serve knows your name.” [Accord, T. Brad Bishop, Municipal Courts, 3d § 2.1 at page 16 (Samford University Press, 1999)]. 

Judge Wallace J. Smith, a 1950’s Circuit Judge from Franklin, Tenn., agrees saying:

As to ethics, the judge, as he soon learns, owes a great responsibility to the public. In his locality, he is the embodiment of justice, beyond which the comprehension of its citizens seldom goes. If he proves his worth and the worth of the court over which he presides, there is great pride in the hearts of his friends and neighbors in the thought of justice and the institutions which represent it.


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