The Freedom Center Is Swinging For The Fences!
|Dear Friend of the Freedom Center,
As I write this I am both exhausted and exhilarated.
Last Thursday Ron Calzone and I were at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, where the Freedom Center argued in favor of a very simple constitutional principle:
The Fourth Amendment prohibits law enforcement officers from pulling people over unless the officer has an articulable and reasonable suspicion that the vehicle or its occupants are in violation of a law.
This idea shouldn’t be controversial – after all, it has been the U.S. Supreme Court’s position for nearly 45 years. But we were in front of the appellate court because District Judge Stephen Limbaugh, Jr., believes that the Constitution allows officers to stop drivers at any time and at any place along the state’s highways and interstates, even if the officer has no reason to suspect any wrongdoing at all. Here is a seven-minute video I made to preview last week’s argument – nearly 2,000 people have watched it on Facebook!
For an attorney, preparing to argue a case like this is intense. Although you are, of course, familiar with the cases you have relied on to make your written arguments, you never know what issues will be of most interest to the judges. You must have a thorough command of the entire written record, and you need to be able to respond to all sorts of hypothetical situations about which a judge might ask questions. I spent most of the past week reviewing the facts and the applicable cases and trying to think of how to answer any of the hundreds of questions the judges might ask. Even the night before the argument, I was up until 3:30 a.m., just trying to make sure I was ready.
Because judges typically try to avoid statements that reveal which way they are leaning, it can be difficult to figure out a case’s likely outcome from the statements judges make at oral argument. That said, I feel good about where we stand after Thursday’s argument. Two of the three judges on our panel, Judges Benton and Gerrard, seemed to agree that the Fourth Amendment generally prohibits officers from pulling over drivers without some reason to suspect wrongdoing, although they also seemed open to the idea that a different set of rules should apply to professional commercial truckers. Judge Colloton (who is on President Trump’s short-list of potential Supreme Court nominees) hinted that he might prefer to allow suspicionless stops for anyone driving a large vehicle, whether or not they were professional commercial truckers. Here is a link, if you’d like to listen to the full oral argument for yourself.
We expect the Court to issue an opinion in four to six months. One of the advantages of fighting cases in federal court is the possibility of winning victories that will help citizens even beyond Missouri’s borders. For example, if we win this case, it will immediately have a positive constitutional impact not only Missouri, but also in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, and Arkansas!
For people hiring ordinary attorneys, getting a case to the Eighth Circuit likely would have cost them at least $100,000 – an amount that most people could not possibly pay. Jenifer and I started the Freedom Center to make sure that Missourians like Ron Calzone and Maty Fall (pictured above) would have the chance for top-notch, principled, pro-liberty legal representation, even if they could not pay for someone to represent them. Your donations are what makes it possible for us to continue fighting to advance freedom in our state and federal courts. If you haven’t donated to us recently, I’m asking you right now to go to mofreedom.org/donate and to make a contribution of $25, $50, or $100 to help Ron Calzone and all of our other clients in their fight to preserve your freedom!
As always, we are honored to be the “shock troops” on the front lines of the fight for individual liberty here in Missouri and beyond. We thank you for all your support and encouragement.For Liberty,
Director of Litigation
Freedom Center of Missouri
Invest in Liberty!
P.O. Box 693
Mexico, Missouri 65265
Phone: (573) 567-0307
Fax: (573) 562-6122
Freedom Center Case Receiving Documentary Treatment
Shortly after we re-launched our Turf Grass Mandate case, a couple of documentary filmmakers contacted us and asked if they could make a film about the case. At the end of March I got together with them and they filmed for two hours as I talked about the Duffners’ case in particular, but property rights and public interest litigation in general.
I have always thought that documentaries would be a great way to help personalize, humanize, and dramatize the constitutional principles for which we’re fighting. It is very exciting that this possibility is becoming a reality in the context of this particular case.
We are also eagerly awaiting the result of some interviews I did in connection with the election contest cases I litigated last year. A documentary crew from New York was following my clients, Bruce Franks and Rasheen Alderidge, as they tried to overcome election fraud and to win the right to represent their constituents. Although that documentary is not really centered on a Freedom Center case, I am very hopeful that my participation in the filming will help get some solid, liberty-centered ideas out there for people to think about.
We will try to keep you up to date as each of these projects develops.
On April 4, 2017, voters in St. Louis City elected former Freedom Center client Natalie Vowell to represent them on the school board. We represented Natalie during her first bid for elected office, when then-Secretary of State Jason Kander unilaterally removed her name from the ballot. We successfully argued at both the Missouri Court of Appeals and the Missouri Supreme Court that the Secretary of State has no independent authority to restrict who voters will be able to consider when they go to the polls to choose a representative.