Milo Townsend, June 3rd, 2015
Citizens of the de jure State of North-Carolina, when entering the courts of the de facto State, don’t typically avail themselves of the services of the State’s attorneys. Being members of the Bar, and hence owing a loyalty to the courts of the 39th State, Citizens of the 12th State have never had any reasonable expectation of obtaining an informed, honest and vigorous defense on their behalf from legal counsel employed by the very State whose jurisdiction our challenge disputes. To the best of my knowledge, few Citizens of the 12th State of North-Carolina have ever accepted the services of an attorney in making our challenge to the de facto State’s jurisdiction. I did, and this is my story.
We have all read the reports of how our court challenges usually go: denial of due process, intimidation, attempts at beguiling our Citizens into technical blunders that weaken our position, silence and avoidance of the substantial issues on the part of the prosecution, complicity of the judges with this behavior (sometimes even more extreme and unethical misconduct from the bench), and ultimately denial of the respondent’s “motion” and an unlawful trial from which we are forced to either appeal or accept the judgment as final and the de facto State’s hegemony as unassailable. Occasionally, following much headache and heartache for everyone, dismissal of a case is ordered by the court or requested by the State’s attorney and charges are dropped for reasons of judicial expediency. These latter constitute the “good” days; the former are most certainly not.
This story is somewhat different from either of these narratives, and, while not the clear victory that we, the Citizens of the de jure State, have always sought from our days in the de facto courts, it should nevertheless be an encouraging turn of events to those of us who pursue the ideal of liberty and citizenship under lawful government.
Almost a year ago, early in the morning on May 4th, 2014, I was returning home from an evening meeting in Charlotte. Passing through Locust, NC, at about 1:00 AM, I encountered a police checkpoint (whether they were engaged in a manhunt for an escaped convict was never revealed to me, but I suspect it was merely an instance of the State flexing their unchecked power by erecting a revenue-generating fishnet for unsuspecting late-night travelers). The encounter went much as I anticipated until the detaining officer asked to take my handgun, openly displayed on the dash of my vehicle, into his possession for the duration of the stop. Not believing he had the authority to confiscate, even temporarily, my personal property, and not knowing how the stop would be resolved (if I would be arrested, if the handgun would be confiscated into police evidence for some reason, etc.), I asked the officer why this was necessary, considering that it was in plain sight and I was not threatening anyone with it. He insisted, citing “officer safety.” I objected and refused, an argumentative ‘discussion’ ensued, and when he attempted to reach into my vehicle to forcibly take the gun off the dash, I rolled my window most of the way up. For this I was ultimately arrested and taken to jail for “resisting and delaying an officer in the performance of his duties.” In addition to several other motor vehicle code violations (driving without a license, no tags, etc.), I was thus charged with my ‘crimes’ and assigned my day in court.
The case went to District and followed the usual pattern described above, ending in a conviction based on an illegal trial. I appealed. My Superior court date arrived and I issued my challenge under special appearance. However, the matter became mired in the question of my right to counsel (as so often happens when our Citizens make a special appearance pro se to challenge the State’s jurisdiction). While I insisted that I did not know if I required the services of an attorney or not, because the State had yet to prove its authority to prosecute me, the Judge nevertheless insisted that I make a decision on this point of order before we could proceed to address the question of jurisdiction. For three days straight this question occupied the time and attention of myself and the court; finally, upon the third day, I offered to sign the waiver of counsel under the condition that I be allowed to note on the document my reservation of my right to challenge the jurisdiction of the State and the courts prior to any trial proceedings. The judge accepted.
By the time I returned to court in the next session, I had discussed, with others in our state, the matter at great length and determined that a better way might be found by asking for court-appointed counsel. Our thinking was that if such counsel proved to be unhelpful or detrimental to our position, we could definitively assert to the court that I had tried proceeding their way and it had not served my best interests as a respondent, so I would have thus been left with no other choice but to assert my right to counsel of my choice, whereupon we had prepared to press the court to accept one or more officers of our de jure state as my chosen counsel. This bold move would have been a course of last resort, and one of uncertain consequence, but if I had exhausted all of the alternatives, it was one we were prepared to fight for. The alternative, which we did not seriously expect, was that the court’s appointed counsel would actually prove an effective and determined advocate for my defense and our cause.
I was assigned an attorney by the court – Mr. Jim Senter – and over the course of the next several months we met multiple times. I presented him with all of our paperwork so that he could become familiar with our argument and our position. We discussed the case from several angles and weighed all possible avenues for resolution. He evaluated our contentions and arguments seriously and objectively, and although it took him some time to digest the full measure of what we were asserting and requesting of the State, he became sufficiently familiar with the material to form educated legal and practical judgments related to it. I was impressed with his engagement of our argument and, through the course of the proceedings that followed, I was similarly impressed by his ardent advocacy for myself as his client. Despite his perception of my position as uncommon and somewhat eccentric, he did nevertheless own that, upon a full reading of the materials, it appeared that we had a sound argument and our position was valid. However, he also advised that it was unlikely to succeed from a practical standpoint and the case would likely go to trial. I was encouraged by his evaluation of our position, and even more so by his willingness to argue my jurisdictional challenge before the court.
I was scheduled to appear again this past May 26th in Superior Court in Stanly County, the Honorable Theodore Royster, Jr., presiding. Mr. Senter and I had prepared as best we could, revising my notices and memorandum to conform to the formal requirements of the courts while still maintaining the substance of the challenge. By noon of that Tuesday I was called, and Mr. Senter expressed to the Court our intentions and requested a brief period before the case was heard for us to finalize our filings with the Clerk’s office and serve copies to the District Attorney’s office. We were put on for 2:00 that afternoon and over the lunch break we filed our paperwork and gave notice to the DA. At 2:30 that afternoon I was again called. Mr. Senter informed the Court of our position and advised that the District Attorney would likely need time to review the documents just filed and form a rebuttal. The matter was put over for another unspecified day in that session and I was advised to return the next day at 9:30 AM, whereupon we would find out then when the jurisdictional issue would be heard.
Upon leaving the court house that afternoon, I discussed our prospects with my attorney. He said that he had been speaking with the elected D. A., Mr. Lynn Clodfelter, who had taken on the prosecution of my case personally. He then informed me that Mr. Clodfelter intended to press the Court to impose an active sentence, which I found out later would have consisted of at least 60 days in jail. The consequences of this eventuality would have been catastrophic for me and my family, and would very probably have resulted in losing our home. I expressed these concerns to my attorney and my intense sense that such a judgment would be a grievous injustice for an individual who had committed no violent offenses (indeed harmed no one in any fashion) and who was simply asserting a position that is, despite the refusal of the courts to acknowledge the validity of the facts, clearly founded on the plain truth of history and law. He replied that such was the price of standing on principle, and that he would do his best in my defense.
On Wednesday, May 27th, 2015, my case was again called after lunch. The Judge stated that he would hear us present our “motion,” placing us in a position of defending our position against the State without requiring the State to respond to what had been filed. The Judge also noted that he had not read the Memorandum (it was 50 pages long). Our first approach was to assert that our filings were in order and conformed to the formal requirements of the courts, and therefore stood on their own, leaving the burden of proof with the State to rebut. Judge Royster responded that under “normal” circumstances that would be true, but these were “abnormal circumstances” which left “the burden of proof with the Respondent,” and he wished to hear our presentation of our “motion” before he heard from the State. We had planned for this contingency, however, and we were prepared to present our position first.
Mr. Senter addressed the Judge, explaining the outline of our position challenging the State’s alleged jurisdiction, and then stated that, if the Judge would allow it, I would personally explain in detail the substance of our evidence supporting our challenge since I was significantly more familiar with the nuanced details of that argument than was he. The Judge left that decision at our discretion and I addressed the Court to elaborate our argument in detail. For roughly half an hour I related the key points of our argument to the Court, addressing the issue of the existence of two States of North Carolina, how these each came into existence, the chain of title to the soil of the state, how the 39th State’s claim to that title was unconstitutional, the contingency of personal jurisdiction on territorial jurisdiction, I submitted proof of my personal status as a Citizen of the duly-re-established 12th State, and concluded by reiterating the issue of the de facto State’s inability to prove their claim to title over the soil and their consequent lack of jurisdictional authority to prosecute my case. Judge Royster was very tolerant and accommodating throughout my presentation and, I believe, genuinely listened to my arguments. The District Attorney did not object to anything I said, but let me speak uninterrupted from start to finish. Both were very courteous and respectful throughout.
Upon conclusion of my arguments, the Judge allowed the D.A. to respond, and his rebuttal consisted of two primary points. The first of these he asserted as a rebuttal to my allegations pertaining to the jurisdiction of the de facto State, and the second he intended to act as evidence of my own actions voiding my Affidavit of Citizenship and Domicile by entering into a “contract or agreement” with the 39th State under “willful and knowledgeable consent.”
With respect to the State’s territorial jurisdiction, Mr. Clodfelter cited two clauses of Article 1, Sec. 10, of the U.S. Constitution limiting the prerogatives and powers of the States and asserted that in seceding from the federal Union and joining the Confederacy in 1861, North Carolina had violated both of these clauses and unlawfully usurped powers it had willingly relinquished when it joined the federal Union in 1789. As such, he reasoned that the secession of the 12th State had never been valid and that somehow, therefore, Reconstruction was within the authority of Congress and the 12th State never ended – that what we are calling the “39th State” still is, in fact, the 12th State of North-Carolina and still holds title over the soil of the State.
Regarding the matter of personal jurisdiction and my claimed status as a Citizen of the de jure State, Mr. Clodfelter noted that I had entered “willfully and knowingly” into a contract or agreement with the STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA (de facto State) subsequent to having signed my Affidavit of Citizenship & Domicile claiming all such contracts to be null and void on the grounds that they had been entered into without such consent, freely given. On this basis he asserted that my most recent contract was the binding one relevant to the judgment of the courts, and that my Affidavit of State Citizenship was accordingly null and void because I had “contracted” with the de facto State to obtain a driver’s license after I had claimed State Citizenship. He further noted that “we don’t make the Respondent drive on the roads of our State.”
Briefly, it is noteworthy that none of Mr. Clodfelter’s points of rebuttal hold up as successful counter-arguments against our position. The first is completely irrelevant to the fundamental matter of what body politic constitutes the “State of North Carolina” – one of State Citizens (12th State) or one of nationalized United States citizens (39th State) – and how both of those political bodies came into being and came to possess or claim possession of title over the soil of the State. Moreover, our basic argument does not dispute Mr. Clodfelter’s assertion (since it is essentially a moot point) that North-Carolina’s secession was, at worst, not valid or is, at the very least, not materially relevant to the veracity of our position regarding the constitutionality of Reconstruction and the change in the State’s constituent body politic. The State of North-Carolina, viewed as a body of people organized under a form of government, was clearly and fundamentally altered in 1867/8, and nothing Mr. Clodfelter offered in his first line of reasoning is a convincing rebuttal to this simple fact. If the fact clearly stands that there have, in fact, been two States (in the foregoing sense), then the only questions remaining are: whether the change was lawfully effected, valid and binding, and, if not, then which one of them holds legitimate title over the soil of the State? These are both questions that we believe the objective facts of history and law should easily answer in our favor; those roads that Mr. Clodfelter quipped the State doesn’t make me drive on… our entire contention is that those are OUR roads, not theirs, and that we can prove our claim while they cannot.
Concerning personal jurisdiction and the matter of obtaining a driver’s license as a State Citizen, I simply replied that contracts entered into under duress and out of necessity are not valid and binding, and that was the case with my application for a DMV-issued driver’s license from the de facto State. My Affidavit of State Citizenship is still just as binding and valid as it ever was, and I am still a State Citizen of the 12th State of North-Carolina, duly re-established. Obtaining a permission slip to drive from the de facto occupying power under threat of force, financial duress and possible confinement changes nothing regarding the legitimacy of a status I have claimed of my own free will and consent.
In the end, Judge Royster expressed great consideration and respect for my arguments – and particularly for my able presentation of them, citing me as “a credit to my University” – but he nevertheless denied my “motion” to dismiss and passed down the ruling that the [39th] State does, indeed, have jurisdiction to prosecute and try my case. Drawing from memory (I have not yet received the court reporter’s transcript of the day’s proceedings), I recall one particular statement of note that was made by the Judge in justifying his ultimate ruling on the jurisdictional question, which was that the 10th Amendment of the Constitution reserves to the States all powers not granted by the Constitution to the federal government; that the police power is among such powers retained by the States; and that the execution of such powers necessarily entails that the State possesses territorial and personal jurisdiction within its borders.
With all due respect to the Hon. Judge Royster, the force and effect of the Tenth Amendment in the context of Reconstruction and nationalization is thoroughly addressed in the Memorandum of Law that he declined to personally read in my case, and his justification of the State’s alleged jurisdiction relying on this rationale is subject to the exact same rebuttal as is Mr. Clodfelter’s reply on the matter of territorial jurisdiction: the question is not “what powers do the states have under the Constitution?” The question is, “which ‘State of North Carolina’ lawfully possesses those powers?” Again, I believe the facts of law and history clearly demonstrate the legitimacy and lawfulness of the 12th State, and the unconstitutionality of the 39th State, and nothing that the District Attorney or the Hon. Judge Royster submitted in response is, to me, convincing of the contrary conclusion. I therefore regard the ruling on jurisdiction as arbitrary and clearly unjustified by the evidence and arguments presented to the Court.
All that being said, however, my argument was apparently convincing enough to elicit the profound respect of both the District Attorney and the presiding Judge, for both expressed as much during and after the proceedings. And insofar as personal respect counts for something among adversaries, the D.A. offered a resolution to the matter that was apparently commensurate with his new-found regard for me both as a human being and as an advocate of law and justice. Rather than follow through with his intentions to seek an active sentence, Mr. Clodfelter made a generous offer to my attorney to drop all the charges in Superior court (two cases with multiple charges cumulatively) on the condition of a plea of guilty to resisting and delaying an officer, which would be subject to a Prayer for Judgment, and to waive all but the court costs of the single case and the attorney’s fees. Further, contingent upon my getting my driver’s license back (no small task from a financial point of view, but within the realm of possibility) he agreed to drop all charges pending in District court, which, again, consists of multiple cases each with multiple charges. After serious consideration of all my options I agreed to this deal, and a North Carolina Superior Court Judge’s unprecedented and unexpected respect for a State Citizen was further evidenced during sentencing by Judge Royster’s overt comments to me personally and, even further, by his generous order waiving both the court costs and the attorney’s fees that I had expected to have to pay to the court.
In fairness to all involved, I believe that regardless of what these gentlemen may have wanted to believe based on the arguments and evidence I presented supporting our State’s position, there are powers beyond their control that prevent them from ruling in favor of the 12th State. But if a State Citizen ever has received anything approaching a “fair and impartial hearing” on this matter of jurisdiction, I suspect that this day in court comes closest of them all so far to fulfilling that description. While the ruling is, I firmly believe, flawed and erroneous, the resolution was nevertheless satisfactory for me personally. And the most notable fact of all is that a prosecuting attorney for the 39th State, for the first time that I am aware of in modern history, actually took our argument seriously enough for the elected D.A. to read every document I filed and formulate a thoughtful response which, even if it may have been inadequate to constitute a successful rebuttal, was nevertheless seriously tendered, and the Court did make a serious attempt to give the matter a respectful and tolerant hearing.
I have no hard feelings toward either of these men – Mr. Clodfelter or the Hon. Judge Royster – and I am convinced that the overall pleasantness of the experience, and the concessions made in hearing the jurisdictional argument and in disposing of the cases afterward, would not have been realized without the honest objectivity, sincere advocacy and industrious diplomacy of my attorney, Mr. Senter, to whom I owe much credit and thanks.
In the end, the only thing more desirable than the outcome that I, in fact, obtained would have been for the Court to have ruled in favor of my jurisdictional challenge and pass judgment that the de facto State lacks jurisdiction to try a Citizen of the 12th State – a prospect that I honestly don’t think is realistic at this time, even if a Judge were genuinely convinced that it would be right and just. For myself, therefore, I believe it’s time to try another approach to soliciting widespread recognition of the de jure State of North-Carolina; I believe it’s time to grow our citizenship through education and awareness of the truth.