You may have seen in the national news, and on social media, that the Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools, in Jefferson County, West Virginia, decided to come after school employees who attended the Trump Rally on January 6, 2020. At least two employees, both long-time school bus drivers, who attended the rally, and who never entered any prohibited areas near the Capitol, never witnessed violence, never participated in violence, destruction of property, trespassing, etc., were suspended on January 8, 2020, and remain suspended as of this time.
This afternoon we filed a federal Section 1983 civil rights lawsuit against the Superintendent, individually, for money damages. Here’s the filing:
This is a blatant attack on the core of the First Amendment: the right to assemble and protest in a traditional forum of public speech, such as the U.S. Capitol. These clients did not pass into any prohibited area that day. They committed no crime while in Washington D.C. They’re exercise of free speech had absolutely nothing to do with their employment as school bus drivers for Jefferson County Schools. They just so happened to have a political activist superintendent.
Enough of the false information about West Virginia Delegate Derrick Evans and his presence at the Capitol protest. Things aren’t always what they seem. Also, the media doesn’t always tell you the whole story. Here’s what really happened:
Update on the Federal Covid Tyranny Challenge: The Governor filed a motion to dismiss our lawsuit, and we responded yesterday. I think Samuel Adams said it best on October 14, 1771:
“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.”
Here’s the Governor’s motion to dismiss our federal lawsuit on behalf of the Bridge Cafe & Bistro Restaurant, challenging the Stay at Home Order and the Mask Mandate:
This is extremely interesting – not because of the election fraud aspect of it, but because the basis of the entire petition to the Supreme Court is the principle of separation of powers with respect to the powers of state legislatures. This has been the same basis upon which we challenged the West Virginia Governor’s executive orders pursuant to his declaration of a state of emergency. The exact same issue. Additionally, West Virginia also changed election laws without going through the legislature, in which case there could be issues of validity pertaining to the West Virginia election in 2020. In other words, if the popular votes in PA, MI, GA and WI should be invalidated based upon changes in state election laws by their executive branches, instead of their legislative branches, then so should the COVID mandates in those states – as well as in West Virginia – also be unconstitutional for the same reasons.
Here are some excerpts from the arguments in this amicus brief, supporting the Texas lawsuit:
Encroachments on the authority of state Legislatures by other state actors violate the separation of powers and threaten individual liberty. The unconstitutional encroachments on the authority of state Legislatures in this case raise particularly grave concerns…..
In every other context, this Court recognizes that the Constitution’s separation-of-powers provisions are designed to preserve liberty. “It is the proud boast of our democracy that we have ‘a government of laws, and not of men.’” Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 697 (1988) (Scalia, J., dissenting). “The Framers of the Federal Constitution . . . viewed the principle of separation of powers as the absolutely central guarantee of a just Government.” Id. “Without a secure structure of separated powers, our Bill of Rights would be worthless, as are the bills of rights of many nations of the world that have adopted, or even improved upon, the mere words of ours.” Id. “The purpose of the separation and equilibration of powers in general . . . was not merely to assure effective government but to preserve individual freedom.” Id. at 727….
It is no accident that the Constitution allocates such authority to state Legislatures, rather than executive officers such as Secretaries of State, or judicial officers such as state Supreme Courts. The Constitutional Convention’s delegates frequently recognized that the Legislature is the branch most responsive to the People and most democratically accountable. See, e.g., Robert G. Natelson, The Original Scope of the Congressional Power to Regulate Elections, 13 U. PA. J. CONST. L. 1, 31 (2010) (collecting ratification documents expressing that state legislatures were most likely to be in sympathy with the interests of the people); Federal Farmer, No. 12 (1788), reprinted in 2 THE FOUNDERS’ CONSTITUTION (Philip B. Kurland & Ralph Lerner eds., 1987) (arguing that electoral regulations “ought to be left to the state legislatures, they coming far nearest to the people themselves”); THE FEDERALIST NO. 57, at 350 (C. Rossiter, ed. 2003) (Madison, J.) (stating that the “House of Representatives is so constituted as to support in its members an habitual recollection of their dependence on the people”); id. (stating that the “vigilant and manly spirit that actuates the people of America” is greatest restraint on the House of Representatives).
Democratic accountability in the method of selecting the President of the United States is a powerful bulwark safeguarding individual liberty. By identifying the “Legislature thereof” in each State as the regulator of elections for federal officers, the Electors Clause of Article II, § 1 prohibits the very arrogation of power over Presidential elections by non-legislative officials that the Defendant States perpetrated in this case. By violating the Constitution’s separation of powers, these non- legislative actors undermined the liberty of all Americans, including the voters in amici States.
BRIEF OF STATE OF MISSOURI AND 16 OTHER STATES AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE BILL OF COMPLAINT
One could apply these same arguments to point out that West Virginia has been living under a state of government by executive orders, issued by the governor pursuant to his indefinite declaration of a State of Emergency, including orders altering state election law. If PA, GA, WI and MI violated state separation of powers doctrines in changing their state election laws, they – and we – have also done so by changing other state laws through executive COVID mandates. You can’t pick and choose which causes are important enough to violate the separations of powers. If the 2020 election changes required the legislatures approval, then so did the 9 months worth of mask mandates and lockdown orders.
“Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah have formally joined Texas in its Supreme Court suit against Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—four battleground states who ran illegal and unconstitutional elections,” the state of Texas said in a statement. “The joining states agree with Texas: the defendant states exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to justify unlawfully enacting last-minute changes and ignoring both federal and state election laws, thus skewing the results of the 2020 General Election. ”
As promised, tonight – Monday evening – at 6:30pm eastern, don’t miss my live cast video, an episode of Freedom is Scary. Available at this link, on Youtube, and on our Facebook page as well. Join the live chat and bring your comments/questions.
In 2018, West Virginia passed a wonderful pro-2nd Amendment piece of legislation, titled HB 4187, a.k.a. the “Parking Lot Bill,” which took effect on June 8, 2018. The bill prohibited businesses from banning firearms from vehicles in their parking lots. It also prohibited the hiring and firing of employees based on their possession of firearms.
About a year later, a national gun control group, which is really “Everytown for Gun Safety,” financed by Michael Bloomberg, using the b.s. name, “Coalition Against Domestic Violence.” Ironically, this group would forcibly disarm the very group they’re supposed to be advocating for. Victims of domestic violence would not have the option of defending themselves with firearms, from their would-be attackers, because they would have their employers enact policies (which corporations generally do) requiring that no firearms can be kept, even in their employees’ parked cars. Here’s the original lawsuit, in its entirety:
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey is the named defendant in the suit. His lawyers filed a motion to dismiss.
Last week, U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver denied the motion. I had to read it for myself, since many were instantly outraged. Judge Copenhaver is as good as it gets. He was first appointed by President Ford, and is a workaholic, even in his 90s. I had the honor of trying a jury trial in front of him a few years back. Here is his ruling:
Keep in mind, that this is a ruling in a motion to dismiss – not a ruling on the merits of the challenge. It’s an easy standard for plaintiffs to pass in most cases. So, what were the grounds for allowing the lawsuit to proceed? Even though the gun control group is advocating for the restriction of the individual rights of West Virginia citizens, they’ve disguised their claims as seeking constitutional protections for a collection of domestic violence advocacy groups who are apparently horrified of armed attackers hiding guns in parking lots.
The motion was actually only seeking dismissal on grounds of “standing” and “ripeness,” which are both technical arguments not quite reaching the constitutionality issues. The Court rightly held that groups should be able to challenge the constitutionality of state statutes in federal court, and that they should be able to do so prior to any enforcement actions – not just afterwards. So this is a bit of a nothing-burger. At some point there will need to be a ruling on the constitutional issues.
One of the claims which will need to be decided, isn that the Parking Lot Bill violates the First Amendment – that there’s a free speech component to the being able to prohibit firearms on your business or organization property, if you don’t like guns. It will be interesting to see what happens with that, because it’s not all that different fro the claim we made in the same federal court last week in our challenge of the Governor’s mask mandate. Many laughed when I argued that compliance (or noncompliance) with a mask mandate was protected free speech. So let’s see if this similar argument gets any traction.
Here is the Governor’s response to our Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction, which is set for hearing in federal court on Monday morning. It was just filed last night, and I’m working on filing a reply, which is due by this afternoon.
You’ll notice that they argue that the Governor’s words are meaningless – that only his actual written executive orders should be reviewed, according to his lawyers. Throughout the response they mention that the Governor is utilizing some vague concept of executive emergency power. However, there is no such thing. They essentially argue that there is nothing the federal judiciary can do to stop him. We’ll see……
Today the West Virginia Governor issued yet another Executive Order – E.O. 77-20, which has “amended” the existing “mask mandate” issued by him in July. He’s now issued hundreds of pages of executive orders since first declaring a state of emergency back in March. He now mandates that everyone wear a mask in “all public indoor places,” presumably referring to any structure inhabited by “the public,” as it now seeks to force property owners and small businesses to enforce his unconstitutional edicts, and will punish them for not doing-so.
Even worse than the order itself, are the comments the Governor made when informing the peasants about his new law.
“Beginning at midnight tonight, I will issue a mandatory requirement to wear a face covering indoors in all public buildings at all times. This is not just when social distancing cannot be maintained, this is mandatory wearing your face covering in all buildings, at all times, other than your home,” Justice said.
So, while the order itself uses weaker and more ambiguous language, the Governor’s direct threats to the public said “all public buildings.” The actual order says “when individuals are able to physically isolate in a physically separate office or other space when no others are present….” As usual, the tyrant places responsibility for enforcement of his edicts on the already-suffering small businesses, as well as the employees. Although the order didn’t mention it, he says the next step is “closure” of the business for non-enforcement.
He also (apparently waiving attorney-client privilege) says that his lawyers said that if the peasants don’t follow his order, business owners are to call the police. Moreover, if someone isn’t following his order, “they’re obstructing justice,” presumably the misdemeanor criminal charge of obstructing an officer. He also threatened that business owners/operators who don’t follow and enforce his order will also be charged with misdemeanor criminal obstruction (which is punishable by up to a year in jail).
The governor also warned that if business owners don’t enforce his rules, “the next step will have to be closure.”
Justice also signaled law enforcement, citing conversations with legal counsel.
If patrons don’t follow the order, Justice told business owners to call the police. And if someone isn’t following the mask mandate, they’re obstructing justice, Justice said. The governor also said an obstruction of justice charge would apply to business owners/operators that are flaunting the rule.
By the way, there is no such thing as “obstruction of Justice” in West Virginia. I’m not convinced he wasn’t referring to himself in the third person when he said that, but in any event, “obstruction of an officer” is the crime on the books in West Virginia, and it’s a misdemeanor which carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail. Fortunately, it’s not as vague as the federal crime of “obstruction of justice,” and actually requires a court to look at what the officer who was allegedly obstructed was investigating. Generally, if it is a felony crime under investigation, you “obstruct” an officer by lying to him or failing to identify yourself, under some circumstances. If it’s a misdemeanor, you are allowed to lie, or fail to identify yourself, generally. You cannot commit “obstruction” in West Virginia by doing something you are legally allowed to do. Read all about it in the controlling West Virginia case on “obstruction” in State v. Carney. In any event, only the legislature could amend the obstruction statute.
Meanwhile, the Governor has chosen not to call a special session of the legislature, and instead, has continued to rule by executive fiat, which is unconstitutional under the West Virginia Constitution. This cannot be allowed to continue. Numerous friends and clients of mine have resolved to file suit as soon as possible. We will file a challenge in West Virginia State Courts, as well as possibly federal court. We previously filed a challenge before the State Supreme Court, but were denied the relief we requested – probably on procedural grounds. We will begin the suit in the lower Circuit Court so as to avoid any technical procedural defenses. There must be a ruling on this constitutional crisis, in both the state and federal courts.
Here’s the original lawsuit we filed, if you want to read in detail my explanation on why these executive orders are in blatant violation of our West Virginia Constitution. We do already have one federal challenge pending on behalf of the Bridge Cafe & Bistro Restaurant in Putnam County, West Virginia. That case is still pending, and you can read the federal lawsuit in full at the link, as well as the explanation of why the E.O.’s are unconstitutional on federal grounds.
So far the petitioners will be the following State legislators: S. Marshall Wilson, Michael Azinger, Jim Butler, Thomas M. Bibby, and Mark Dean. In addition, we will include a representative sample of patriotic West Virginia owned small businesses, such as restaurants, gyms, and barber shops/hair salons. We may also include churches and private schools. There will be other private plaintiffs as well, including Tabitha Simmons who has thankfully started a gofundme fundraiser to cover legal expenses. I’ve already spoken with one other experienced WV lawyer who has agreed to assist on the case, and would like to bring in more (possibly Civil Rights lawyers from other states, if we can raise the money). So if you can help Tabitha raise the funds needed, please do. 100% of the funds will go towards this litigation against the tyrannical actions of the Governor. Here is the link:
Additionally, I will be on the Tom Roton Morning Show to discuss this new tyranny, first thing Monday morning – at around 8:00 a.m., I believe. We may also be planning a protest at the State Capitol, or possibly elsewhere. So please stay tuned……
ETA 11/16/20: We are putting together a legal team to file suit as soon as possible. For those of you small business owners concerned about the Governor’s threats to close your business and have you arrested, etc.., we believe this may implicate federal 4th Amendment protections. The Governor has threatened criminal arrest and prosecution for violations of his “mask mandate.” You are within your rights to ask for a warrant and to refuse consent to any government official entering your home or business pursuant to the Governor’s executive order. That won’t stop them, necessarily. But they will make themselves defendants in lawsuits afterwards. We believe this is applicable to county health officials as well. Video footage may be crucial.
Live Video on the Fight: Monday evening, 5:30 pm, Eastern:
ETA 11/17: BREAKING: Yesterday we filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in the Bridge Cafe & Bistro case, challenging the constitutionality of the Governor’s Friday statements and his new enhanced mask mandate. The Southern District of WV just now ordered the Governor to respond by 5pm this Thursday, and scheduled a hearing for November 23 at 10 am in federal court in Huntington.
Join me for Episode No. 26 of FREEDOM IS SCARY, live. Constitutional law, liberty and justice, LIVE on both Youtube and Facebook, tonight at 6PM Eastern.
Post 2020 Election legal analysis, constitutional law and civil rights law Q&A, feelz, predictions , conspiracy theories, pending cases, and also why West Virginia is a great place to be. Submit your comments, questions and observations in the live chat.