Time: Fri Jul 18 06:26:54 1997
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	Thu, 17 Jul 1997 21:05:22 -0700 (MST)
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 1997 00:04:47 -0400
Originator: heritage-l@gate.net
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
To: pmitch@primenet.com
Subject: SLS: Ninth Circuit endorses vigilante justice (fwd)

>Hello email friends!  Apologies if you receive a duplicate post.
>I am attempting to help publicize this case for some friends of
>mine.  I need email addresses of news media and talk programs,
>whatever you've got.  Please send these to me at:
>  Steve Washam <sew@valint.net>
>Questions about the case should be directed to:
>  Steve Martonick <sma@bmi.net>
>Steve Washam
>Wednesday, July 17, 1997
>WALLA WALLA, Wa. --- A recent Associated Press story told
>of a police chief in Arkansas who decided to have one of
>his subordinates pretend he was a municipal judge.  The
>pretender sentenced two women on traffic charges to hefty
>fines and community service.  Now the chief's subordinate
>has been fined $1,000 by a real municipal judge and the
>police chief is going to trial.
>If this same scenario happened in Washington state it may
>have been a far different story.  The victims of the hoax
>may have been fined and told on appeal that they had no
>legal right to bring an action against someone pretending
>to be a judge.
>This in fact did happen to two plaintiffs in a federal
>lawsuit filed in eastern Washington.
>The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the ruling of
>federal district court judge Alan McDonald that there is no
>constitutional right to trial before a lawful judge.
>In an order denying a motion for reconsideration, issued
>the day before Independence Day, July 3rd, 1997, a panel of
>the Ninth Circuit let stand its earlier decision dismissing
>the appeal of Walla Walla residents Ron Steele and Terry
>Knapp who had filed a civil rights action to shut down the
>pretend municipal court of Walla Walla, Washington.
>The three judge panel ruled in a terse decision: "In
>accordance with the rule set forth in Heck v. Humphrey, 512
>U.S. 477 (1994), this case is dismissed."
>The Ninth Circuit never elaborated on what "rule" in Heck
>it referred to and how it applied to Steele and Knapp's
>The Supreme Court did say in Heck that state prisoners
>could not bring civil rights suits if they were just veiled
>attempts to attack their convictions.  Nonetheless, neither
>Steele nor Knapp were ever state prisoners nor did either
>serve time pursuant to a sentence of the municipal court.
>Said Steele of the appeals court decision:  "After nearly
>an hour of oral testimony, more than 50 pages of briefs,
>and hundreds of pages of documents submitted on the record,
>I had hoped that at the least we'd get something more than
>just 14 words."
>The civil rights class action suit brought by Steele and
>Knapp had its roots in a March 1993 order by judge Charles
>Thronson of the Walla Walla municipal court.
>Thronson had ruled that the court was never established in
>accordance with Washington state law and therefore it did
>not have jurisdiction over the traffic case before it.
>The judge found that essential legal steps had been omitted
>in the court's creation in 1976, such as a public hearing
>and local legislative action in the form of a resolution or
>In spite of Thronson's findings, the city continued
>operating the court after a hastily drafted resolution was
>passed allegedly "ratifying" the municipal court's
>existence retroactively to 1976.  Due to the city's rush,
>this resolution was also adopted without a public hearing
>or compliance with other essential statutory steps.
>Because the city turned a deaf ear to the plea of a number
>of area citizens including judge Thronson who wanted the
>court either shut down or a legal one established, Steele
>and Knapp took their case to federal district court looking
>for help.
>In their complaint they alleged that: "The purpose of this
>action is to obtain a declaration that the purported court
>of limited jurisdiction [the Walla Walla municipal court]
>that has been and continues to be operated by the Defendant
>is not and has not been a court since July 1976; and is
>void, non-existent, fraudulent, a nullity and a
>trespasser...."  The complaint also termed the municipal
>court a "sham."
>Steele and Knapp pointed out in their argument that the
>Washington state supreme court and appellate court cases of
>State v. Canady (1991) and State v. Moore (1994) require
>municipal courts to be created by ordinance or resolution
>adopted publicly prior to the creation of the court.  The
>Moore Court declared: "[T]he power of the office makes it
>essential that the [local legislative authority] properly
>and publicly create and authorize it."
>Neither the city in its briefs nor the McDonald or the
>Ninth Circuit decisions addressed or even mentioned the
>Canady and Moore cases.
>During oral argument, however, judge Robert Beezer of the
>Ninth Circuit panel told the city that it could not do
>business in such a careless manner.  Beezer then pointed
>out, somewhat caustically, that his own panel had complied
>with all legal requirements in its formation.
>McDonald didn't go as easy on the plaintiffs and their
>claims as the Ninth Circuit.
>The judge expressed his displeasure with Steele and Knapp's
>suit by fining them $10,000, just a week before Christmas
>1995, for bringing the action, saying their case was
>"without merit."
>He also ordered their attorney to "show cause" why he
>shouldn't be disbarred from practicing before federal
>courts in the eastern district of Washington.  For 13
>pages, McDonald derided Steele and Knapp's case in
>exceptionally harsh language.
>Although he conceded that statutory procedures were not
>followed in establishing the court and never found the
>court to be legal, McDonald dismissed the plaintiffs' claim
>that their right to a trial by a lawful court had been
>infringed, calling it "constitutionally insignificant."
>A graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla, McDonald is
>himself a controversial figure.
>The Reagan appointee has recently been sued by his former
>clerk, Kathryn Blankenship, after allegedly firing her for
>refusing to alter court documents.
>Among other things, Blankenship alleges that McDonald would
>pass sexist and racist notes to his law clerk in court and
>used government employees to conduct his real estate
>business for him on government time. (See District Court v.
>Sandlin, 12 F.3d 861 (9th Cir. 1993) for an account of
>some of the judge's activities.)
>Steele and Knapp intend to pursue an appeal to the United
>States Supreme Court.
>The Supreme Court overruled a record 96% of the Ninth
>Circuit cases it heard last year.  The high hourt also on
>a number of occasions went to unusual lengths to chide
>Ninth Circuit judges for the poor quality of their
>decisions, said Ninth Circuit judge Diarimuid O'Scannlain
>in a July 8th speech in Seattle before the Washington
>Institute Foundation and local Federalist Society.
>Steele summarized his experience with justice and the
>courts.  "This is why I want to appeal. I want to work in
>the system, but there is a double standard here."
>"If McDonald and the Ninth Circuit aren't corrected, then
>how can the federal government question the activities of
>the Freemen and other militia types who set up their own
>courts?  Because now that it's OK for the city to ignore
>the law and operate an illegal court it just invites these
>fringe types to do the same."
>"Its incredible, when one dares to exercise his rights to
>question this, he gets slapped with an outrageous $10,000
>For more information, contact:
>Ron Steele: (509) 525-2057
>Steve Martonick: sma@bmi.net

Paul Andrew Mitchell                 : Counselor at Law, federal witness
B.A., Political Science, UCLA;  M.S., Public Administration, U.C. Irvine

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