The title of this column is a common phrase, the equivalent of “don’t make a mountain out of a mole-hill.” It is an admonishment to not blow things out of proportion. I use it, here, as a legitiment plea. Too many cases, particularly criminal cases, go through the federal court system. “The more laws, the less justice!” remarked, Cicero, perhaps ancient Rome’s ultimate statesman. I echo his sentiment as one of my favorite quotes of all time.
In general, in Amerika today, too many things are against the law. In the old days you have to harm someone or actually threaten them with harm to find yourself in court. Now, any excuse will do for a persecution .. prosecution, rather. Owning certain plants is illegal, and not only the ones some people smoke to get high. “Short” lobsters are illegal. Not reading a contract in full is illegal. Everything is illegal. By the way, I write “Amerika (with a “K”),” like many commentators, to lament the decline of my country, America. I have watched it change completely during my life, I’m sure you’ve noticed it too.
Back to federal criminal laws. There are somewhere on the order of 10,000 criminal laws inside and outside of Title 18 of the U.S. Code. Add to that the innumerable regulations which carry criminal-like penalties and the ways to criminally control and extort the people are almost limitless.
Remember that old rag called the Constitution? It seems most people have forgotten it, especially those charged with defending and upholding it. I am one such sworn defender who keeps it in mind more than most.
(Birth of a government… Source: Google Images).
Oddly, I am not the greatest fan of the Constitution. This shocks many people who know me as an ardent proponent of the document. The Constitution was drafted for one reason – to create a new government. Not being a fan of government, and not being able to find sufficient fault with the previous version under the Articles of Confederation, I view the Constitution and its child as unnecessary, dangerous even. However, since we have it, one would assume we should use it. The problem is we don’t. “We” is misplaced. The problem is the government’s complete abdication of the limits placed on it by the Constitution.
Lysander Spooner observed, over 100 years ago, “whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.” And, that was before the exponential growth of the present government.
As is, I have sworn several oaths to support and defend the Constitution; therefore, I do so. I read the Constitution literally (adhering to the “strict construction” view) and only put credence in what is actually listed therein, no more.
Back to federal criminal laws, again. Do you know how many crimes are designated for federal prosecution? The number is a little less than 10,000. The Constitution authorized congress to make and allow prosecution of THREE crimes! Those, all found under Article I, are: 1) counterfeiting money; 2) piracy and; 3) treason. Most of these are almost exclusively committed by the government these days. They obviously don’t prosecute themselves absent exigent circumstances (political payback, etc.).
Actually, there are other crimes acceptable as federal crimes. The great Ron Paul, speaking in the House Floor, noted four federal crimes. I would not dare dispute the Honorable Doctor. Thus, I defer to his number, though I will question exactly what the fourth crime is. There are a few possibilities. I do not read expansively, as some do, that the other legitimate functions of the government authorized in the Constitution might lead to hypothetical or extrapolated crimes. That reading is how we got to our present state of insanity.
The Constitution authorizes punishment for violation of the “law of nations.” I’m not sure what that means but it is written. The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery (I have a new series coming on the subject!) and provides for punishment. That would be a federal crime. It’s possible there are others but the number thereof is very short.
All other crimes, legitimate crimes, are left for state or local prosecution. That’s what the Constitution says. You can read the whole thing here and I recommend you do, frequently: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html.
The federal government was never intended to be all-powerful, though it has assumed that god-like position. Blasphemy, I say! I have never thought of any easy way to reverse the course of tragedy in our laws. Therefore, I have resolved myself to faithfully do what I can, individually, to maintain true allegiance to the Constitution, flawed though it may be. I have met with little success.
Over my professional legal career I have undertaking criminal defense matters with great enthusiasm. I have worked and tried many cases, including many in federal courts. During my tenure I have never defended anyone charged with piracy, counterfeiting, treason, or slavery. One client was close to counterfeiting – accused of identity theft which robbed people and banks of money, kind of like printing the stuff from scratch – like the Federal Reserve does with Congress’s illegal blessing.
Most of my clients were charged with any and everything else, though usually the cases involved firearms and narcotics. Most of these defendants chose to enter pleas in exchange for reduced sentences. Most (like 97%) of federal defendants do this. This is a sad statistic. Very few cases go to trial and the government wins most of those by a similar margin. I have successfully had cases dismissed outright. That is rare in any court system. I also negotiated better than most attorneys for my clients and any reduction in punishment they might receive. I am not really proud of that last part and I have found it difficult to accept. The lesser of two evils is still evil. I don’t like evil.
The last case I tried to a jury involved charges of terroristic threats against a government agency. Such vague “threats” as they were probably would not have supported a prosecution had they been leveled at me or you. Directed towards the government they were unforgivable. The nefarious methods employed by the government to obtain an indictment and a conviction were similarly outrageous.
The jury did not hesitate to convict my client, a truly helpless man who had done harm to no-one. He was released with “time served” with the government’s blessing. Frequently, they just like to remind people they are in charge, and no more. I must admit most of the local officials I deal with are more honest and compassionate than the average. Still, that does not change the system. My client declined my suggestion of an appeal and even my offer to seek a Presidential pardon (those of usually reserved for “buddies” and campaign contributors). My guy just wanted to get back to life as normal. I understand his plight and decisions.
During the trial, before the jury was sent to deliberate the case, I made a legal motion to have the case dismissed for purely legal reasons. Juries consider all facts in conjunction with the law. Judges consider matter purely legal in nature. My motion was three parts, the last being reference to the lack of Constitutional authorization for the charged offense. The motion was denied completely. The denial would have survived appellate review. The courts have consented to Congress’s massive expansion of the criminal laws and the President’s prosecution thereof. So much for separation of powers.
I have made the same argument before. To my knowledge I am the only attorney in the area (maybe the nation) who still dares to do so. I care not for erroneous appellate decisions. Recall, if you will, that once the Supreme Court said slavery was a-ok. It never was. Likewise, honesty and justice compel me to recite the legal truth about law, Natural and statutory, over and over regardless of the ultimate outcome. When I make such arguments the Courtroom usually goes dead silent and I have gotten used to icy stares. I have also learned not to push my luck and that these arguments do not work. Making a simple point is enough, I never argue to the point of being held in contempt. I have heard others have done that. I am too much of a coward to risk jail over moot points.
Some have told me these concerns are better taken up with Congress. All things being equal, that is correct. Congress is supposed to be there to hear grievances. Have you tried communicating with Congress lately? It was largely a pointless endeavor in days past; almost no members of the assembly cared for truth. With the departure of Dr. Paul, there is no point now.
We have lost the greatest champion of Liberty since the passing of the Founders. We have lost truth and justice. At least we have 10,000 criminal laws to comfort us. Enjoy!