In Iceland's Economic Crisis, fritz asked about sui juris representation. I already wrote about this in "Is Pro Se Defense a Good Idea?", but I'll make an updated and enhanced version.
I've never been the victim of a frivolous lawsuit or frivolous criminal charges, so I don't have any practical experience with sui juris representation. (Before there are comments from the peanut gallery, I haven't been involved in any non-frivolous legal cases either.) If necessary, I would probably choose to represent myself. I have done my background reading and research, if necessary.
For example, when given an employment contract, I usually read it myself rather than hiring a lawyer. I look for things like "overly restrictive non-compete" or "software you develop while not at work belongs to us". Usually, they'll make the clause less restrictive if I ask. Some "non-compete clauses" are so general that they could be interpreted as "FSK may not work anywhere in NYC as a software engineer for a year after quitting."
In this post, I'm referring to being a sui juris defendant. I wouldn't bother being a sui juris plaintiff, except possibly in small claims court, and even then the trial would probably not be worth my time. It seems like wasted effort for little benefit. Judges tend to dismiss lawsuits with a sui juris plaintiff as "frivolous", without reading them. It's better to make sure you avoid people who will injure you, instead of filing civil lawsuits.
I'm mostly referring to criminal trials, but I mention civil trials at the end.
When the US Federal government was first created, there were no State licensing requirements for lawyers. In a trial, most people would represent themselves. Most trials lasted a week or less. Anybody could start working as a lawyer, with no overhead.
In the early 19th century, lawyers lobbied for State licensing requirements. This restricted the supply of lawyers and drove up prices. Most/all Congressmen are lawyers. The President is usually a lawyer. Most/all judges are lawyers. All three branches of government are controlled by lawyers.
The primary beneficiaries of the legal system are lawyers. Whenever you interact with the legal system or the State, you normally need a lawyer. The rules and procedures of a trial were written by lawyers. They made them so complicated that only lawyers may understand them. Legal language is much harder to read than plain English. That is not a natural free market occurrence. Lawyers are protecting their turf, intentionally making the legal system incomprehensible to outsiders.
Lawyers bill by the hour. This provides an incentive for lawyers to make the legal system complicated. This maximizes the number of hours they can bill!
Suppose I am frivolously accused by a crime. I hire a lawyer. The lawyer bills me $200/hr or whatever. If I am acquitted, I do not recover that expense. My lawyer gets paid whether I am convicted or acquitted. No decent lawyer would offer "I bill $200/hr, but I charge nothing if you're convicted!" Since my lawyer is billing me by the hour, the incentive is for him to drag out the case as long as possible.
The State has no obligation to reimburse me for time and money wasted if they pursue frivolous criminal charges against me. An over-zealous judge and prosecutor are protected by "sovereign immunity". Via sui juris defense, at least I would avoid wasting $20k-$50k+ on legal fees. Further, I probably can present a better defense than a State-licensed lawyer.
Most people are brainwashed to believe "OMFG! I need a State licensed expert!" When involuntarily interacting with the legal system, people normally hire a lawyer. The rules and procedures for a trial were written by lawyers. They were made unnecessarily complicated, guaranteeing that the services of lawyers will always be in demand.
A lawyer has a license from the State. This makes the lawyer a State employee first, and representing his client second. For example, suppose you are arrested for possession of marijuana. You ask your lawyer to present a "jury nullification" defense. Your State-licensed lawyer tries to explain "jury nullification" during the trial. The judge interrupts your lawyer and orders your lawyer to shut up. Now, your State-licensed lawyer is stuck. If your lawyer disobeys the judge, then he will be held in "contempt of court" and lose his law license and his career. It takes 4+ years and $200k+ to get a State law license. Your lawyer would be forfeiting that if he defended you honestly. Therefore, your lawyer plays along with the judge, to the detriment of his client.
As part of the State licensing process, a lawyer takes an "oath the uphold the law". However, this means that a State-licensed lawyer is barred from disagreeing with the judge regarding what the law is. If the judge says "Congress says marijuana possession is illegal!", your lawyer is barred from saying "Does Congress have the authority to ban possession of marijuana?" Your State licensed lawyer is barred from arguing "The law is immoral!" Your lawyer may not present a jury nullification defense. Your lawyer must obey the State.
If you want to present a defense based on "What does Congress actually have the authority to do?" or "This law is immoral!", then you *MUST* represent yourself sui juris. A State-licensed lawyer *CANNOT* make such an argument.
I'm a pretty good public speaker, and would do a good job representing myself. I probably would do better than a State-licensed lawyer, especially for a tax resistance/evasion trial or "operating a business without a State license". Due to State licensing requirements for lawyers, you cannot hire me to represent you, if you are the victim of State violence. However, you could hire me to help you prepare beforehand, provided you don't tell anyone. It's a crime for me to help you prepare for a trial without a State lawyer license, but that's hard to enforce.
I like the argument made on "Barefoot's world". If you hire a State licensed lawyer, then the court treats you like an incompetent/cattle/retarded. You are unable to directly speak for yourself.
If I were the victim in a tax resistance/evasion trial, I would want to represent myself, so I could speak directly to the jury. Further, I'd want to participate in the jury selection process, screening for the "productive worker" personality type. Parasites would be more likely to convict me. Parasites would get offended by me arguing "Taxation is theft!"
In a criminal trial, a jury has three responsibilities.
- What are the facts of the case? This is the responsibility generally understood and publicly acknowledged.
- What exactly is the law? In the present, the judge explains the law to the jury as a settled, non-controversial issue. This is inappropriate, if the defendant disagrees with the judge's explanation of the law. If the jury accepts the judge's explanation of the law without questioning it, then what happens if the judge is wrong? What if the judge is lying on purpose?
- Is the law a good law? If jurors believe that the law is bad, then they have the right and obligation to vote "not guilty", even if the facts of the case indicate the victim broke the immoral law. It used to be the custom for judges to remind juries of their "jury nullification" right. Supreme Court rulings have established that judges and defense attorneys are *BARRED* from mentioning jury nullification. Juries still have the right to nullify. However, defense attorneys are barred from explaining jury nullification to jurors. If a juror says "I understand jury nullification!", during jury selection or deliberations, then he would get kicked off the jury. There were some instances where a juror was kicked off a jury during deliberations, when he asked the judge a question about jury nullification.
In Sparf vs. US in 1895, the US Supreme Court ruled that a trial judge has no obligation to inform jurors of their "jury nullification" right. Before that, it was common practice for judges to remind all juries of their "jury nullification" right. In Sparf vs. US, the judge didn't explain jury nullification in the trial, the defendant was convicted, the defense appealed, and the Supreme Court said the judge did nothing wrong. This decision was later interpreted and extended as saying "Defense attorneys are *BARRED* from mentioning jury nullification!" and "If anyone mentions jury nullification during a trial, then the judge should hold them in contempt!"
Juries still have the legal right to nullify. However, the defense may not mention it during a trial. "Trial by jury" as commonly defined when the US Constitution was written, included jury nullification. Jury nullification was a hot issue during the US Revolutionary war. People in the colonies were prosecuted for criticizing the British government, and juries of colonists then acquitted them, even though the person had publicly criticized the British government.
During pre-trial jury screening, prospective jurors are asked (indirectly) "Do you understand jury nullification?" If a prospective juror answers yes, then that juror is declared ineligible. (That's a great way to get out of jury duty. Just tell the judge that you understand "jury nullification".) By forbidding the defense from mentioning "jury nullification" and by screening out intelligent jurors, the right of trial by jury has been nearly completely repealed.
One of my favorite quotes regarding jury nullification came from a prosecutor in Texas. He threatened to prosecute for treason anyone who publicly wrote about jury nullification!
In the present, lawyers are barred from mentioning "What is the law exactly?" and "jury nullification" to juries. The oath that juries take specifically bars them from questioning the judge's description of the law, or from practicing jury nullification. If representing myself sui juris, I would point out to the jury "If someone makes you take an oath to do something wrong, you don't have to do it. A jury's verdict is absolute and cannot be questioned. The judge may not discipline or arrest jury members who give a verdict that the judge doesn't like."
I read an interesting bit regarding income tax resistance/evasion trials. There's a special clause called the "tax protestor doctrine". IRS agents have lobbied/brainwashed Federal judges so they behave in a certain manner in tax evasion trials. In a tax evasion trial where the defendant tries to argue "The income tax is illegal/immoral!", there's a special set of procedures where the normal rules of a trial are suspended.
Suppose you are representing yourself sui juris. The jury has been selected and the trial begins. You are speaking to the jury and you explain "jury nullification" to them. Suppose the prosecutor objects and the judge says you aren't allowed to mention "jury nullification". Suppose you disobey the judge's order and continue. Now what is the judge going to do? Is he going to bar you from speaking to the jury at your own trial? Is he going to hold you in "contempt of court" indefinitely? You're going to jail anyway if convicted, so a "contempt of court" threat is irrelevant.
There is one advantage of representing yourself sui juris. Suppose you are speaking directly to the jury, explaining "The income tax is immoral!" or "Does Congress have the authority to say that all work anyone does anywhere is subject to taxation?" A State-licensed lawyer cannot make such an argument, lest he lose his law license. If the prosecutor and judge interrupt a lawyer while making such an argument, the jury will presume that the prosecutor's and judge's interruption is legitimate. Suppose I am representing myself, and now the prosecutor and judge interrupt me. This creates sympathy with the jury. The jury will believe me when I say "The prosecutor and judge are biased against me!" If I'm calmly explaining my philosophy to the jury, and the judge interrupts me, that makes the judge look like the bad guy.
A sui juris defendant can make arguments that a State-licensed lawyer would otherwise be barred from making. That is one big advantage of sui juris representation.
For example, medical marijuana is legal according to California state law, but illegal according to Federal law. The DEA busted someone for operating a "medical marijuana" store. As part of the pretrial wrangling, both the prosecutor and defense attorney agreed "We aren't going to mention that the defendant was operating a medical marijuana store, legal according to California state law." In other words, the defense attorney sold out his client. If I were a medical marijuana salesman busted by Federal prosecutors, I would argue sui juris "I'm operating a medical marijuana store, legal according to California state law!" Some jurors, questioned after the trial, said they would have voted to acquit if they knew the defendant was operating a medical marijuana store. The defense attorney failed to represent his client properly by refusing to mention "medical marijuana" during the trail. The defense attorney had a State lawyer license, and could not risk losing his license to honestly defend his client. Now, the marijuana salesman is required to appeal, and biased judges are obviously not going to take his appeal seriously.
That is another important point. Don't presume "If the judge makes a mistake, it will be corrected on appeal!" You should remind the jury of this point, emphasizing that it is important for them to give you a fair verdict. You should also remind the jury "If you're hung, the prosecutor gets a mulligan and may retry me!"
Judges frequently forbid attorneys from including certain evidence or making certain arguments. If you represent yourself sui juris, you can present this evidence anyway. A "contempt of court" threat by the judge is irrelevant, because you're going to jail anyway if convicted.
If you're a sui juris defendant, your target audience is the jury. Don't worry about the judge getting angry at you. The judge has probably decided you're guilty ahead of time or he wouldn't have ordered the trial in the first place. You have to get the jury to vote to acquit, or at least convince some jurors to hold out against conviction and get a hung jury. If there's a hung jury, the prosecutors get a mulligan and may retry you!
If you previously received a mistrial, you should remind the jury in the 2nd trial "There was a previous mistrial!" The judge normally bars attorneys from mentioning that. By reminding the jury that there was a previous mistrial, you point out that the judge and prosecutor are biased against you. After wasting a lot of money on a mistrial, the judge and prosecutor decided to waste a lot of time and money in *ANOTHER* trial.
Also, suppose I am prosecuted for practicing agorism based on the 2009 tax year. I am acquitted. I then practice agorism in the 2010 tax year, and am prosecuted again. I would make sure I point out to the jury that I was previously prosecuted and acquitted.
As a sui juris defendant, you should assume that the judge is biased against you. You will be at a disadvantage in the pretrial legal wrangling, declaring what evidence is allowed and disallowed. As an agorist, my defense would not be arguing the facts of the case. My defense would be "According to common/natural law, you're only committing a crime if you injure someone else! I'm just trying to earn a living and run a business. Why are the prosecutor and judge wasting time and money harassing me?"
One advantage of being a sui juris defendant is the jury selection process. I can screen for the productive worker personality type and against the parasitic personality type, perhaps better than anyone else. I can also look for things like "Is the prospective juror making eye contact with me?" A State licensed attorney would not have such an advantage. If given the free choice, I'd take "12 random jurors", but that's not the way jury selection works. I have no direct experience with jury selection. I have no idea how good the prosecutors are at stacking juries.
One problem with "trial by jury" is that it's "trial by 12 people too dumb to get out of jury duty". If necessary, I'd hire "volunteers" to hand out pamphlets to jurors entering the courthouse. (I'm assuming that by the time I get busted for practical agorism, I have a network of trustworthy trading partners to hire for help. If necessary, I'd perform a "test run" before at someone else's trial.) If they were a few blocks away, and at the subway stations and bus stations, they might get away with it. I'd make sure I had several groups, in case some got caught. I'd include some non-leafleters, who would warn the others if the police start harassing people. The "Fully Informed Juror's Association" sometimes hands out pamphlets before trials, but there's a risk of being accused of "tampering with the jury selection process". Of course, if you're accused of illegally handing out "fully informed juror" pamphlets, they have to mention that at your trial!
There's another benefit of sui juris representation. In a long trial, I'd start making the prosecutor and judge and police *VERY* uncomfortable, as I repeatedly explain the truth to them. They might start questioning their own brainwashing. That could be a disincentive for the State to pursue frivolous criminal charges against me.
There's another advantage of sui juris representation, if you're a good public speaker. You get to develop a personal rapport with the jury. I can be sure to make eye contact with each of the jurors. I want the jurors to think "FSK is a nice guy. He doesn't deserve to go to jail." A State-licensed lawyer will do all the speaking for you. A State-licensed lawyer will usually advise his client to not speak in his own defense. This is a mistake, because the victim has zero input into the trial.
As an agorist, I'd prefer an honest defense. "I'm not disagreeing with the facts of what happened. The judge and prosecutor are falsely declaring my behavior to be a crime!" If that is my defense, there's no harm speaking directly to the jury or testifying myself. I don't have to worry about "leaking information" to the prosecution, because I'm not questioning the facts.
There's another point to emphasize in a sui juris trial. The victim/defendant is the *ONLY* person who has a personal interest in the outcome of the trial. If you hire a State-licensed attorney, he gets paid the same whether you're convicted or acquitted. The judge, prosecutor, police, and IRS agents *ALL* get to keep their cushy jobs, whether you're convicted or acquitted. The jurors get to go back to their normal lives when the trial is over. The *ONLY* person whose life is impacted by a criminal trial for a "victimless crime" is the defendant!
I would make sure that I emphasize to the jury that I'm the *ONLY* person in the room who has a personal interest in the outcome of the trial! For this reason alone, I believe I can do a better job than a State-licensed attorney. Why should a State-licensed attorney care if I go to jail or not? For this reason, the judge and prosecutor may not be able to prevent me from presenting an honest defense to the jury. They're used to complacent defense attorneys, and not someone aggressively pursuing their own self-interest.
Also, if I attempt "promote agorism via standup comedy" and am successful, then I would be *VERY* entertaining during a trial. On "Kung-Fu Monkey's blog", he says "Standup comedians have public speaking and improvisation skills that most politicians lack." When politicians give interviews, it is usually scripted in advance. You don't get to interview the President unless you're the type of person who only asks the "right"questions.
Another point I would emphasize to the jury is "Look at all the money wasted on this trial!" I'd estimate the salary of the judge, prosecutor, jurors, and other State agents. I'd point out that the cost of the trial is probably a lot more than the taxes the bad guys claim I owe. I'd point out the tremendous waste of resources, at a time when the US economy is in bad shape. Why should an otherwise productive and nonviolent person be sent to jail?
Also in a criminal tax evasion trial, I'd point out the difference between a civil trial and a criminal trial. In a criminal tax evasion trial, the issue is "Do I deserve to go to jail?" and not "Do I owe unpaid taxes and fines and interest?" Even if acquitted in a criminal tax evasion trial, the prosecutor and IRS may still pursue a civil trial to collect unpaid taxes.
In a criminal tax evasion trial, I'd be sure to emphasize "What is the definition of income?" In 1913, the common definition of income was that it only applied to corporations. In 1913, income meant what is now considered to be "passive income", i.e. dividends, interest, rent, capital gains, and corporate profits. "Income is all economic activity" was retconned later. In 1913, income and wages were different. I'd emphasize *BOTH* the immorality of the income tax, along with "What is the income tax exactly anyway?" I'd emphasize the moral argument the most, but I'd also make the legal argument.
There's one big risk you take as a sui juris defendant. The judge may hold you in "contempt of court" for disagreeing with him or for refusing to censor your defense. I would point out to the jury that anybody who threatens to imprison me for disagreeing with him is obviously an evil person. According to corrupt State law, a defendant may be jailed indefinitely at the random whim of the judge. If a judge says "Contempt of court!", he may jail anyone indefinitely at his sole discretion. At some point, there's a limit. If the jury's already been picked, then what is the judge going to do after forcibly removing you from the courtroom? Is a judge going to bar me from speaking to the jury at my own trial? A judge can't hold you for months on "contempt of court" charges, can he? After awhile, it looks silly. Besides, you're going to go to jail for a long time anyway, if convicted, so "contempt of court" is an empty threat.
I saw an article where prosecutors were exasperated at a skilled sui juris defendant. They pointed out "You can't interrupt a sui juris defendant, because that creates sympathy with the jury. A sui juris defendant can make arguments a State licensed attorney would be forbidden to make." As long as I'm polite, the judge will seem like an ***hole if he holds me in "contempt of court" for disagreeing with him.
I read another interesting anecdote about someone who was a very skilled sui juris defendant. After a few incidents, the State enforcers decided to leave him alone. They decided he wasn't worth the trouble of harassing. I certainly want to be a non-pushover target.
Also, if the judge feels you're a particularly belligerent defendant, he may impose a stricter prison term than sentencing guidelines. For example, if I argue "The income tax is immoral!", then the judge can give me a particularly stiff sentence for disrespecting the law. Even if sentencing guidelines say "1-2 years", the judge may still impose a 30 year term, just because he doesn't like me.
There's another issue. I read that *MOST* court-ordered psychiatric evaluations come when a defendant expresses a desire to represent themselves. According to a judge (who's a lawyer himself), only an insane person would forego the advice of a lawyer. If you're ruled "mentally incompetent", then you may be held indefinitely without trial. "Mentally ill" people don't get the same rights afforded to criminals! Given that I have a previous history of being labeled with a "mental illness", this could be a problem.
In most trials, the jury members are treated as passive observers. There is no law that prevents jurors from asking questions during a trial. As a sui juris defendant, I would make sure that the jury understood all my arguments. I would encourage them to ask questions, so I make sure they understand my points.
So far, I've only discussed criminal trials. Civil trials are another issue.
I wouldn't bother being the plaintiff in a sui juris trial. It isn't worth my time. I'd write the experience off as a loss and move on.
For example, I investigated suing my psychiatrists for malpractice. My psychiatrists did follow "generally accepted practices" and falsified the medical records to make their murder seem appropriate. In order to win a judgement, I'd have to prove in the trial "generally accepted psychiatry industry practices are wrong". I tried finding an attorney to represent me on contingency, but couldn't find anyone. I didn't want to waste my own time and money, so I gave up. (Besides, if interrogated, my parents would probably testify against me. They would say "Maybe FSK needs drugs! He was calm and obeyed our orders when doped up!") In this sense, the legal system failed me.
I no longer have any loyalty to a corrupt system that was unable to prevent my murder. The only reason I recovered is that I ignored my psychiatrist's advice, stopped taking the harmful drugs, and made it through the *NASTY* withdrawal. "I could get sued for malpractice" is supposed to prevent misconduct by doctors. Via sovereign immunity, doctors/psychiatrists/murderers are nearly absolutely immune from liability for misconduct.
Lately, I feel that I've recovered my pre-hospitalization level of ability, but it's hard to tell. With higher awareness, I seem to no longer fit in a corporate wage slave environment. Members of the parasite class show extreme hostility towards me when they sense I can see through their scam. In most/all corporations, parasites are pulling the strings. I'm still stuck living with my parents. I've recovered my ability, and probably achieved a higher level of awareness. I'm severely restricted, because I'm surrounded by pro-State trolls.
If necessary, I'd defend myself sui juris in a civil trial. It depends on whether I have a wage slave job and how much I earn. In a civil trial, the stakes are money instead of my personal freedom, so I might just hire a lawyer to avoid wasting my time. It depends on the issue of the trial, the amount I'm being sued for, and how much I earn in my wage slave job.
There's a special rule I read regarding corporations. Corporations *MUST* be represented by a State-licensed attorney in court. If you own a State-licensed incorporated business, then you *CANNOT* defend the corporation sui juris. You must use an attorney.
I don't plan to incorporate any of my businesses. I read IRS Schedule C, and you can still deduct expenses for an un-incorprated business. For example, suppose I have $30/month AdSense revenue and pay $10/month for hosting. I only have $20/month of "Schedule C" income. Further, I probably could buy a new computer and charge it as an expense to my blogging business. I probably could charge my ISP expense to my blogging business. Even if the IRS disallows those deductions, at worse I owe interest plus a small fine.
There's another special rule for sui juris lawsuits. Suppose it's an area of law where the winning side gets reimbursed for legal fees, such as patent law. If you're a sui juris plaintiff or defendant, you don't qualify for legal expense reimbursement, even if you're a State-licensed lawyer.
I have no actual experience with sui juris defense. I have no idea how hostile the judge and prosecutor would be, especially when I explain ideas that they've probably never heard or seriously considered before in their lives. You don't get to be a judge or prosecutor unless you're thoroughly brainwashed as a pro-State troll. On the other hand, there probably are some honest and diligent judges who aren't aware that the State is one huge scam. I might be lucky and be assigned a judge who is openminded.
If necessary, I will conduct a sui juris defense. Hopefully, it won't come to that.
Summarizing, I'm a good public speaker. I can probably represent myself as defendant in a criminal trial better than a State-licensed attorney. Knowing that I would present a tough defense, State enforcers might be less likely to harass me, picking easier victims instead. If I become a high-profile advocate for blatant-in-public agorism, I'll probably be the target of the State raid. However, it would be an embarrassment for the bad guys if they pursued criminal charges against me and failed.
Most people I read about who get busted for tax evasion pursued particularly stupid strategies. I don't know any examples of serious practicing agorists. I don't know what is the true risk of agorism or operating a business without a State license. I predict that if you're intelligent and careful, the risk is minimized. The only way to find out is to conduct an experiment! I'd be a hypocrite if I never try.
Some people have said "FSK's responses to reader comments are the most interesting bits of his blog!" Let me know if there's something you want to see. I'll answer any reasonable request.