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Not everything on this website is written by me

There are some in the community who think that everything on this website is written by me (Tona Monroe).  That is not the case.  This site was never intended to be a website solely with material written by me.  I own domains with my name and could just as easily write the material there.

There are some in the community who think that I agree with everything written on this website.  That is not the case either.  My intention in creating this website was never to have complete and total agreement with every word posted here.

The litmus test for content on this website was never complete and total agreement with my views and is not the case now.  My goals are to promote freedom and transparency in government.  Those are the reasons why I started this website and why I continue publishing on this website.  Those are also the reasons that I ran for office and what I hope to achieve while in office.

The content here is intended to be thought provoking while promoting freedom and openness in government.  Everything that is posted here should no more be viewed as my opinions than letters to the editors are viewed as being the opinions of the editors at newspapers.

As I’ve said many times before and will continue saying, let freedom ring!

Senator Doug Overbey should support Grand Jury Reform

My letter to the editor was published today.  Click here to read more on the subject of Grand Jury reform.  Earlier this year, a local activist was dismissed from jury duty, demonstrating the need for judicial reform.

http://www.thedailytimes.com/Your_Voice/story/Grand-jury-reform-is-advocated-id-046998

http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?cat=10

http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?p=4686

From Jon Roland:

The following are the standards that a grand jury system must satisfy to comply with the original understanding of that term used in the U.S. Constitution:

  1. Selected at random from the general public, with perhaps some filtering, but without “stacking”.
  2. Selection by a neutral party (not the judge or prosecutor).
  3. Size of 23.
  4. Decision by 12.
  5. Election of foreperson by the members.
  6. Term of service long enough to learn how to do it.
  7. Limits on terms of service to avoid entrenchment.
  8. Adequate training of grand jurors.
  9. Prevention of undue influence by interested parties, especially judge or prosecutors.
  10. Secrecy of grand jury deliberations, while they are going on, but with allowance of disclosures in their presentments.
  11. Enough time to examine each case, or enough grand juries.
  12. No impediment to access by public to members to present complaints or give testimony, except for reasonable scheduling.
  13. Acceptance of any person, not just a professional prosecutor, being appointed to prosecute a case by the grand jury granting him an indictment.
  14. Acceptance that a grand jury indictment removes official immunity from criminal prosecution.
  15. Acceptance that a grand jury finding of sufficient evidence of misconduct removes official immunity from civil prosecution.
  16. Establishment of rule that a grand jury must determine whether a court has jurisdiction before returning an indictment for that court.
  17. Avoidance of excessive or abusive use of grand jury to harass, intimidate, discredit, or injure persons.
  18. Prevention of misuse during trials of evidence obtained by grand jury.

See http://grand-jury.org

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Constitution Society               http://constitution.org
2900 W Anderson Ln C-200-322           twitter.com/lex_rex
Austin, TX 78757 512/299-5001  jon.roland@constitution.org
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Sam Duck Expresses Frustration over Overbey’s Unwillingness to Stop Federal Tyranny

Mr. Overbey,

I am highly frustrated with you.  Over two years ago, we had a bill that would have required Federal agents to seek approval from the local sheriff before serving any sort of warrant. If Federal agents proceeded without this particular check and balance, they could be held accountable for anything they did, as though they were an non-uniformed citizen performing the same actions.  Going in with guns drawn would be considered brandishing a weapon, or even armed robbery.  Taking peoples’ possessions would be theft.  Holding them at gun point would be kidnapping.  This is reasonable, because we can not vote FBI agents, fish and wildlife agents, etc out of office, but we can vote a sheriff out of office, if he becomes oppressive.  (Well, at least more reasonably so than a federal agent.)  A year after the bill was introduced, Federal Fish and Wildlife agents stormed the offices of Gibson Guitar for the second time in 2 years, without a warrant being served either time, and took a million dollars worth of the owner’s possessions, which as far as I know have yet to be returned.  This terrorizes the people who work in these places.  Yesterday, FBI and IRS agents, sadly along with Knoxville police, stormed Pilot’s headquarters.  As you know, this is the company associated with our governor Bill Haslam, and his family.  The SWAT style raid appears to be over paperwork regarding rebates given to some of Pilot’s customers.  The employees still don’t know if there is even a criminal charge in this.  This is a very difficult way for the Haslams to find out what the people as Gibson felt like.  This is not the proper way to look for problems with paperwork, and it is terrorizing the citizens of this state.  When this bill was in committee last year, you and Mr. Yeager walked out.  I talked to Joe Carr and Stacey Campfield about running this legislation yet again this year.  Joe did not submit the bill, because Ms. Harwell had instituted a 15 bill limit, but he left one slot open until the last possible moment in hopes of running this bill.  The reason he did not submit it, was on Mr. Campfield’s advice, that it would be a waste of a bill slot, because he felt you, and Mr. Yeagar would kill this bill in committee, just like you had the previous year.  Thus, I called your office.  While I never could get in a direct conversation with you, your secretary finally delivered the message that you don’t comment on bills not yet in committee.  This was a worthless answer, that did nothing to move the bill along, because we needed to know if you’d kill the bill again, before we wasted the time trying to push it through the process.  If anything, that comment is what effectively caused the bill to die yet again.  I want to make sure you know, that you are responsible for the lack of checks and balances that made this raid on Pilot possible.  If the bill had passed, it would have at least required Sheriff Jones to be notified.  He could have either signed off on it, or decided to serve the warrant himself.  A sheriff who cares for those who vote for him, might have been more delicate in how he proceeded with the investigation.  Otherwise, if he simply signed off on it, and the raid was done in this manner, that would have been a potential issue come election, for a public that is fed up with this type of abuse from law enforcement.  That’s why this is called the constitutional sheriff bill.  In the end, law enforcement is supposed to be accountable to those they SERVE and PROTECT.  We aren’t supposed to be their serfs, such that they can come charging into our villages, swords drawn, to terrorize us.  I hope, one day, you come to realize how messed up the checks and balances have become, and the importance of positions such as sheriff, constable, citizen grand jury, and a proper grand jury foreman are.  The fact, we have corrupted these offices, is the very reason we see out of control law enforcement today.  Pilot is far from an isolated example.  It just happens to be the governor’s company.

Samuel David Duck

State Gov’t Legislative Update March 15, 2013

3 Minute Truth Update March 8, 2013
Listen to the update here:

On Wednesday, Tennessee House Bill 42 dealing with federal intrusion on gun ownership was defeated by the State House Civil Justice Subcommittee.  This is the second defeat at attempts to reign in federal government regulations on guns after Senator Mae Beavers bill 250 died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee is set to hear HB10 another gun bill, which prohibits state and local funds from being expended to implement federal gun laws but allows state and local government officials to assist the federal government in federal gun regulations, if the federal government pays for the regulations.

Senator Beavers has placed her Senate Bill 227 in the general sub of the Judiciary.  General sub is where bills are placed when Senators aren’t going to proceed with their bills. This bill put a limit on the length of the service of the Grand Jury Foreperson.  Beaver’s office said she didn’t have the votes to pass the bill this year.  Blount County Senator Doug Overbey the Vice Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee told this reporter that after talking with those whose opinions he values, he believes the system is working well as it is and that the Grand Jury doesn’t need to be reformed.  Senator Overbey’s number is (615) 741-0981.  Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey stripped Beavers of her Chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee and made attorney Brian Kelsey the Chairman and attorney Doug Overbey Vice Chairman earlier this year.

Utility Bill HB1186 allowing for a referendum on fluoridation of water and HB373 allowing customers to opt-out of smart meters are scheduled to be heard on Tuesday by the Business and Utilities Subcommittee in the House.  The fluoridation bill HB1186 has been flagged by the Governor, which means he is philosophically opposed to it.  Blount County Representative Art Swann chairs the Business and Utilities Subcommittee.  His number is (615) 741-5481.

HB1078 which stops civil asset forfeiture without a warrant prior to seizure is scheduled to be heard by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Tuesday the 19th.  This bill is in response to policing for profit, where police seize assets they claim are being used in the commission of a crime, leaving it up to the property owner to prove otherwise.  The current law and practice allows police to seize your property without due process.  HB1078 currently has 10 cosponsors.

This is Tona Monroe with Blount County Public Record.  I am delighted to bring you these weekly State legislative updates and thank Truth Radio for the opportunity.  For more information on these bills visit www.bcpublicrecord.com.

Private Prosecutors: Rudder of Ship of State

Let’s Revive Prosecutions
Brief on Private Prosecutions

Private prosecutions used to be the norm. The case discussed at http://www.scotusblog.com/2010/04/plea-bargains-and-private-prosecutors/ involved a debate on whether it was not better not to have a private prosecution done by an injured party, but by someone more detached. In my proposal that would be decided by the grand jury, which I also propose would not be subject to being overridden by a court, but would stand outside all courts.

It has been objected that private prosecutors might not comply with Brady rules for the disclosure of exculpatory evidence.

The Brady rules only work now if the prosecutors get caught violating them, and when they do there are seldom any repercussions other than an embarrassing reversal on appeal. The court of inquiry against former prosecutor Ken Anderson in Williamson County, Texas, that I previously shared a report on, is highly unusual. What is needed is discovery conducted by the defense on what the prosecutor has, which admittedly may reveal more than the prosecutor wants to disclose about investigatory sources and methods.

I am not proposing complete replacement of the current system of public prosecutors with private prosecutors. The high costs of investigation and prosecution put that out of reach of most private parties, although I foresee that private foundations will arise to provide the resources in selective cases. The traditional method in the early republic was “subscription”, in which the would-be prosecutor advertised for donors and passed the hat among citizens. That usually worked, although not always.

It can be expected that when public prosecutors are doing their jobs, few private prosecutions will be pursued. It is when they become corrupt and abusive that private prosecutions are needed and under my proposal, would become more frequent.

Filtering out private vendettas is what the grand jury is for. That was one of its major tasks from the outset, going back to the time of Edward Coke. The present system of public prosecutors is certainly not free of personal vendettas. Indeed, that is one of the ways abuse is happening. It just doesn’t provide a way to control it when grand juries have been brought under the control of the public prosecutors.

The simple fact is that there is no real possibility of government officials controlling the abuses of other officials over the long term. That might work for a few shining moments, but it is not sustainable, and once entrenched, corruption can be almost impossible to overcome. The only way to hold officials accountable is to allow private parties from outside the system to effectively intervene, and if the result becomes a tad anarchic, that is not too high a price to pay for accountability.

If you are going to call for accountability, then you need to accept the only proposal that might actually accomplish that in practice, and not just make aspirational statements that come down to demands that officials behave themselves better.

One of the problems with public prosecutors is that people tend to be less skeptical about the arguments and evidence they might present. They are invested with an aura of authority and respectability that leads both grand and trial juries to go along with them.

Now suppose a would-be private prosecutor files his bill of indictment with a grand jury. Knowing it is a private prosecutor, one would expect the grand jury to be more skeptical, both about the evidence and about the fitness of the complainant to prosecute. If it is convinced the evidence is sufficient, it might still doubt the court it serves has jurisdiction, and no-bill. If it is independent of a court, it could return the bill but also pick the court having jurisdiction. And if it had doubts about the fitness or resources of the complainant to prosecute, it could pick someone else to prosecute. That could be the public prosecutor if he convinced them he was willing, or perhaps some lawyer in the community who convinced them he was prepared to do the job well.

Now suppose the private prosecutor gets before the trial jury. They will know he is not a public prosecutor, even though he appears in the name of the sovereign, as a private attorney general. They might presume that a public prosecutor would never make invalid legal arguments or present witnesses he knew were lying, but would they presume that for a private prosecutor? We can expect they would not.

I submit that almost all of those miscarriages of justice you cited might not have happened had the prosecutors been private. First, because a private prosecutor would probably not have pursued them, and second because judge and jury would apply stricter standards of scrutiny on his conduct during the trial.

Only the government is going to invest the resources needed to prosecute me to get my guns. There is a small chance that private groups will prosecute government misconduct, because that is the one area with a high enough impact on private parties to get them to invest the needed resources.

And note that a false prosecution can itself be prosecuted. Malicious prosecution and abuse of process is not just about civil cases. A private prosecutor would be taking a risk if he didn’t do everything right. More of a risk than is incurred by a public prosecutor as the system works today.

Finally, there is just no other alternative to private prosecution to hold public officials accountable. If you want accountability, that is the only course open.

We can also expect that in a completely private prosecutorial system, there would emerge a pool of competing private prosecution firms who would compete for the business of prosecution, so that the grand jury could become a commission for awarding contracts to them, based on their bid amounts and reputations.

-- Jon

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Constitution Society               http://constitution.org
2900 W Anderson Ln C-200-322           twitter.com/lex_rex
Austin, TX 78757 512/299-5001  jon.roland@constitution.org
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Bill to Limit Grand Jury Foreperson Length Filed

In the past I’ve written about the problems that exist within the Grand Juries of Tennessee and I spoke to Senator Mae Beavers about some of those problems.  She apparently listened, at least partially.

http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?p=147

One problem is the length of time that a foreperson can serve, which is basically until the person dies if the Circuit Court Judge chooses.  While this bill doesn’t address the appointment process, it is a step in the right direction.  I do believe the 4 year time frame should be limited to a 2 years, because you should have the opportunity to go back to a different Grand Jury Foreperson before the statute of limitations runs out on crimes, but at least this bill stops the same person from serving for 20+ years as we have seen in several Counties.

http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB0227&ga=108

This bill isn’t before a Committee yet, but when it is we need to support it.  Unfortunately, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey recently stripped Senator Mae Beavers from her Chairmanship on the the Senate Judiciary Committee and turned the leadership of the Committee over to attorneys, which is not good.

As far as I have seen Mae Beavers in action she ran a fair Committee, allowing all sides to state their positions even if she disagreed with them.  That has not been the case with Senator Kelsey.  When I watched him Chair a hearing, he cut the opposition off and ram-rodded the bill through making the hearing a dog and pony show.  When I spoke to Doug Overbey about Grand Jury problems, he was happy with the status quo.  Thus, I do not believe the change in leadership to be a good thing.

I’ll try to keep everyone informed when this bill is before Committees but if I don’t and you see it up for a hearing, please let me know and contact the members of the Committee urging their support.

Local Solution to Systemic Grand Jury Foreperson Appointment Problem in Tennessee

Rule 6(g)(1) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure allows The judge of the court authorized by law to charge–and receive the report of–the grand jury to appoint the Grand Jury foreperson.  Rule 6 specifies that the term of the appointment is two years, unless dismissed by the Judge, but does not specify a limit to the number of terms that the foreperson can be appointed.  The other 12 members of the Grand Jury are ineligible to serve on another jury for two years after their service on the Grand Jury.

Allowing the Judge to appoint the Grand Jury Foreperson may render ineffective one or more of the important duties of the Grand Jury, which are defined in Rule 6 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure.  Grand Juries are supposed to be free and independent to investigate the actions of state and local public officials, and to examine the condition of the County treasury.  While it’s possible for any Grand Jury member to initiate investigations into any criminal matter, many simply don’t know that they can look into matters without the direction of the District Attorney.   Thus, it’s not likely that Grand Jury members understand the full range of their duties and the 12 that don’t serve as the foreperson are poorly paid and generally looking to go home as soon as possible to tend to their own affairs, as most don’t want to participate and are only present because they have to be.  It’s a sacred role that is poorly understood by most and under used as a result, and even less likely to be used by allowing Judges to pick the foreperson and allow that person to serve indefinitely.

The Judges role in overseeing matters of the Grand Jury and it’s foreperson should be strictly limited to three things: seeing that it’s properly empaneled, administering the oaths to it’s members and appointing a pro tem foreperson who will only oversee the first meeting of the Grand Jury long enough for it to choose it’s foreperson.  Even in the event that the foreperson can or should no longer serve, the Grand Jury should have it’s own appointed pro tempore Grand Jury foreperson to assume the vacant role.

The Foreperson of the Grand Jury is not a popularly elected office; therefore, it should be independent of all other influences and should not be a lifetime appointment or career.  Attorneys already have a monopoly on the judicial branch of government in the State of Tennessee, and have great strength in both the Legislative and Executive branches.  Thus, it’s vital to our Republic that the bulwark of impropriety of government officials provided by the Grand Jury and it’s Foreperson be free and independent from the Judge and DA, and truly be our 4th branch of government.

I have emailed my State Senator Doug Overbey, who is an attorney, about this matter.  He told me that he discussed this matter, with those whose opinions he values, and that they told him the system works fine and doesn’t need to be changed.  When I pointed out that he went to the people that make their living off the system and have no reason to change a system that pays them well, he mearly reiterated that he valued their opinion more than mine.  If you believe that the system does need to be changed, give him a call at (615) 741-0981 or send him an email.

The whole reason we have Juries, whether Grand or trial Petit, is because Judges have historically demonstrated that they can not be trusted.  If all Judges were honest, there would be no need for any type of Jury.  This is why it is a bad idea to let the Judge appoint the Grand Jury foreperson, because the whole point of a Jury is to be a check on the Judge, Prosecutor and government.

There is a very serious problem with the Attorney monopolization of the Judicial branch of government and the closed system it creates.  In Tennessee, with the limited exception of municipal Judges, one must be an attorney to become a Judge.  The Tennessee Constitution specifically states that Judges are to be elected, yet beyond the trial courts the Judges are appointed by the governor, through a recommendation process controlled by attorneys.  The Tennessee constitution authorizes the Supreme Court Judges to pick the State Attorney General.  It’s convenient that the Judges follow the constitution when it suits their power structure, but are willing to violate the State constitution and their oaths of office, when it makes them accountable to the voters.  The Tennessee General Assembly delegates it’s authority to the Supreme Court, by letting those 5 judges propose the rules.  It’s true that the General Assembly retains power to amend the proposed rules, but most of the rules are rubber stamped by the legislature.  The same 5 judges that are appointed, rather than elected, have written Rule 6(g)(1), empowering the Circuit Court Judge handling criminal cases, to appoint the foreperson.  The current Judicial system violates both the state constitution, and the lessons of history, which demonstrate the need for an independent Grand Jury.

All of this is compounded by the fact that in Tennessee the Grand Jury consist of only 13 members and it takes 12 yes votes to obtain an indictment or true bill.  If the foreperson is too close to the Judge or Prosecutor, there is one no vote and all it takes is one other no vote to allow corruption to continue.  The number of Grand Jurors should be expanded to 23 to allow for more votes to obtain the 12 needed for an indictment and to process more complaints without having to empanel two separate Grand Juries.  Expanding the Grand Jury to 23 members would allow for Grand Jury committees to examine more complaints, and in greater detail.  These committees could report to the Grand Jury as a whole with a recommendation and then a vote by all 23 members.

Here are my communications with Tom Hatcher, the Circuit Court Clerk, and his responses.
Inquiry 1          Response 1
Inquiry 2          Response 2
Inquiry 3
          Response 3
Tom Hatcher did not answer my question regarding the next opportunity for public comment on the local rules.
Blount County Grand Jury Statistics for 2006-2010

Information received from the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) on Grand Juries

When there is a problem, it is always wise to have a solution before complaining to those in authority about a problem.  Don’t complain to those who claim to be benefactors yet exercise authority over you, by telling them they need to do something.  They may do something alright, but you may not like what that something is that they do, if you provide no solution.  Always have a well though out solution before approaching those in authority about a problem.

Read my letter to Blount County Circuit Court Judge David Duggan here.

The local solution proposed in my letter is not a permanet fix to the problem, and certainly doesn’t fix the problem in the other 94 counties in Tennessee.  It is up to the citizens of each County to fix the problem at a local level, or come together and fix the problem at a State level, which is the more complete solution.

PK Lowery, of the Tennessee Institute for Responsible Government, and I have been working for reform on this matter at the State level.  PK obtained a House sponsor and I obtained a Senate sponsor, but the House sponsor did not deliver the bill to the Senate sponsor before the filing deadline; therefore, the bill is dead this year.  We will be working to have this bill reintroduced in 2012, and your help is needed to make this happen.  This attorney-Judge stranglehold of government can be broken, if you will get involved.