Common law rightsJudicial reformLocal economyRemonstrance

Right to counsel means right to choose one’s trusted adviser in criminal case

A Venmo refund scam victim, Tamela Grace Massengale was arrested on a hearsay-only warrant sworn by a police officer under an illegal procedure that denies her due process rights. Her unsworn accuser pretended to be interested in buying a Grate Dane pup, and got her victim arrested by phoning in a grievance without her claim being examined under penalty of felony perjury. (Photo David Tulis)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Monday May 13, 2024 — The courts have interpreted “counsel” as meaning a duly licensed attorney, but we have to look back to the historical context to determine whether or not that has always been the case or was at the time written.  

By Christopher Sapp / NoogaRadio Network midstate bureau chief

Since one doesn’t have to attend law school or even be a licensed attorney to meet the qualifications for appointment to the U. S. Supreme Court, it only stands to reason that counsel would also extend to mean someone studied in the law, perhaps self-studied, that an accused relies upon to help make wise decisions, whether licensed or not. 

The issue is highlighted in the case State of Tennessee v. Tamela Grace Massengale, who with aid of next friend David Tulis files in Hamilton County criminal and sessions courts a remonstrance and petition for writ of certiorari to have an illegal “doggie door” arrest warrant policy thrown out as unconstitutional. Mrs. Massengale was falsely accused of theft by the purported buyer of an F$800 puppy who, having paid a $400 deposit through Venmo, changed her mind the day of payment and wanted a full refund on threat of this woman’s “calling the police” and filing a criminal complaint. In Tennessee refunds are not required unless agreed to in writing, according to Mrs. Massengale.

King David surrounded himself with many counselors and “took counsel” from yet others. Were these all members of the BAR guild, or simply people he felt he could trust himself to for counsel and advice?

Why should Miss Grace be forced to trust herself to a stranger when she has a friend who helps her comprehend the law more than she did before and can effectively and more articulately plead the case WITH her?  Law is not taught in public schools. Yet the courts routinely chide litigants from the bench holding that “ignorance of the law is no excuse!”  

How then is one to know and understand the law if he is ignorant of the law and his next friend is prohibited from even discussing it with him for fear of being jailed over an “unauthorized practice of law” allegation? When the Emancipation Proclamation went forth, was it the “practice of law” for one slave to inform another of their newly pronounced rights? If not then, why so now?


The Tenn. Const. art I, sec 9, guarantees, “That in all criminal prosecutions, the accused hath the right to be heard by himself and his counsel.”

It does not say “attorney.”  The constitution does not define the sense of the word. But the courts impose their own definition upon Miss Grace rather than allow her to interpret it for herself as a retained right, a violation of art. XI, sect. 16, and T.C.A. §16-3-403.

The Constitution affords her the right to have whomever she desires for assistance in providing counsel and advice, not merely a private state-paid lackey licensed by the BAR who is in on the racket and part of the system.  

Ultimately it is her neck on the chopping block in the two criminal charges against her (petty theft and harassment). She has the most to lose if she trusts herself to the wrong party. Besides, if a law license guaranteed “effective assistance of counsel” nobody would be in our jails because the advocacy and advice given would sufficiently free them from accusation. If guilty, Ms. Grace faces consequences either way. 

If not, an effective argument will prevail regardless of license.  If left to her own ignorance, she will likely suffer an injustice even without evidence.

It’s worth remembering that the state is comprised of its people, and the people comprise the state.  

Grace IS the State of Tennessee, even more so than the courts, who are but an instrumentality of her own design and creation as one of the people of Tennessee. She is above, as it were; they are below.

If she “licenses” or authorizes you to speak in her stead, are you not then “licensed/authorized” by the “state” to do so, if but for that one instance? Why would any other member of the state even care? Its members’ necks are not on the line in a criminal trial, only hers.  Besides, how is it that cops are able to file legal process seeking an arrest warrant on behalf of third parties without ALSO engaging in the unlicensed practice of law?

The whole notion that someone MUST either chose between their own ignorance and someone who would just as well sell them down the river (attorney) is absurd.

The license is merely a means of maintaining control and governance over the licensee. Covid proved that. The law license governs those who “sell” their counsel and advice to the general public for valuable compensation under T.C.A. § 23-3-101, not those who give it away for free. ‡

Lawyering is merely for-hire petitioning.  Why don’t we have the right to assemble ourselves together WITH others and to petition our elected representatives in the judicial branch of government, for the common good?

The state has an interest in protecting the people from snake oil salesmen that ply their craft and sell their services to the at-large public, which is simply another species of a commercial privilege.   

David in his controversy defending Tamela Grace Massengale should stick to the constitution’s provisions, reminding the court that it can’t prescribe rules that conflict with constitutional guarantees.  

Article XI sect. 16 affirms that the Court is barred from doing so, as does T.C.A. § 16-3-403, official oppression. ‡‡   So while the courts can regulate the “privilege” of those who engage in law business for compensation, they can’t bar you or me from having this conversation — or can they?

If the “right of conscience” mentioned in our bill of rights art. 1, sect 3 (“[t]hat all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience”) is really a thing, the courts in Hamilton County and elsewhere must acquiesce and give place to your intended “mode of worship” and not show preference for another.


“Law business” means the advising or counseling for valuable consideration of any person as to any secular law, the drawing or the procuring of or assisting in the drawing for valuable consideration of any paper, document or instrument affecting or relating to secular rights, the doing of any act for valuable consideration in a representative capacity, obtaining or tending to secure for any person any property or property rights whatsoever, or the soliciting of clients directly or indirectly to provide such services.

T.C.A. § 23-3-101. Definitions


(a)  A public servant acting under color of office or employment commits an offense who:

     (1)  Intentionally subjects another to mistreatment or to arrest, detention, stop, frisk, halt, search, seizure, dispossession, assessment or lien when the public servant knows the conduct is unlawful; or

     (2)  Intentionally denies or impedes another in the exercise or enjoyment of any right, privilege, power or immunity, when the public servant knows the conduct is unlawful.

(b)  For purposes of this section, a public servant acts under color of office or employment if the public servant acts, or purports to act, in an official capacity or takes advantage of the actual or purported capacity.

(c)  An offense under this section is a Class E felony.

T.C.A. § 16-3-403, official oppression.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.