Consider the phrase “With Liberty and Justice for All” and then consider the following account made by Linda Spencer, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Legal Studies (4-year paralegal), of the behavior of a Utah Judge inside a Utah Courtroom. Finally, consider whether or not this example of Utah’s court system lives up to the proper standard.
What I learned in Court today …
1.) Your Constitutional rights DO NOT APPLY in a courtroom (it’s true! Judge McVey said so himself)
2.) United States Supreme Court cases DO NOT APPLY to Utah 4th District Courtrooms. (it’s TRUE! Judge McVey said so!)
3.) I have no right to speak to a judge for MYSELF and must have an attorney do it FOR me!
Today (August 4th, 2014), in the Fourth District Court of Utah, Provo Courthouse, in the courtroom where Judge McVey was presiding, I was approached by a bailiff after I had been sitting on the front row of the courtroom for an hour. I was not the only person sitting on the front row wearing a “FREE Mark Byrge” badge, but I was singled out. I was told by this bailiff (a female with the initials A.T.), that I needed to remove my badge. I asked, “Based on what grounds?” She said, “The judge doesn’t allow them in his courtroom.” I asked, “Can you articulate a law that precludes me from exercising my right to free speech?” She couldn’t … just that “the judge doesn’t allow it.” She said, “It’s a preemptive measure.” I said … “Then where is the crime? Where is the injury/loss/damage?” Again, she could only say, “The judge doesn’t allow it.” I then asked if she was familiar with Cohen v. California. She let me know in no uncertain terms that she was “a lawyer!” I said … “Good, then you should be familiar with laws you are trying to enforce.” This exchange went on for a few minutes. And because I needed to be home tonight to take care of my dog and my chickens, and was not ready to go to jail (my bailer-outter is on a camping trip for a few days and can’t be reached) … I said, “Okay, I will agree to take it off THIS time, but I will be filing a civil rights claim.” Funny how she addressed no one else sitting by me, wearing the same badges. Wish they would have kept their badges on and made her speak directly to them.
As I looked around the courtroom, I noticed several others who were wearing badges of various types, so … I went and sat next to each of them and asked for permission to photograph their badges. They were perfectly happy to allow me that. I waited until the court was finished with their daily business and before they dismissed (about 3 hours), and I stood and asked the judge if I could please address the court. He wanted to know what it was about (well … DUH … let me speak and I will tell you). He wanted to make sure I wasn’t there to speak on a “Defendant’s behalf” … (duh, again … I guess he’s used to dealing with stupid people, and people who don’t know their rights)!
I spoke: “Your honor, I arrived in the courtroom today wearing this badge (holding up the “FREE Mark Byrge” badge) … and before I could finish he interrupted me … “Oh, yeah … you can’t wear that in here!” I asked … “What is the basis of that request?” He said, “Well, it could cause problems!” I said, “What LAW states that I cannot wear this badge in the courtroom?” He, of course, could not articulate one, so he got pissy and defensive. He said … “Well, I can’t just let people wear badges into the courtroom that say things like ‘so-and-so needs to die’ or “so-and-so is a liar”, and if I allow YOU to wear yours, then I have to allow them to wear those!” I said … “And why is that an issue?” He was growing more frustrated. Sorry, hun … I’m not buying your bullsh**. GIVE ME A WRITTEN LAW! He said, “Well, it can prejudice a court.” I said, “I can understand that if there is a jury present, but who would this prejudice?” He said … “Well, ME … I’m a judge … I could be prejudiced by information like that.” OKAY … really? You just admitted that you can’t be UNBIASED?? I think he needs a different tax-feeding job. Maybe cleaning toilets in the courthouse. He said, “I don’t know ANY OTHER JUDGE who would allow you to wear those!” I said, “Well, that’s interesting because this has been going on awhile, and you are the FIRST one who has told us we can’t!”
I said, “I find it interesting that others in the courtroom were wearing various badges and they were not asked to remove theirs.” He said … “Well, they SHOULD have been … WAIT … what badges? Like identifying badges?” I asked, “So … it isn’t ALL badges? Just certain ones?” (Going back to his argument that if he allows one, he has to allow all). He couldn’t tell me anything … he was just getting more pissed, but I WANTED ANSWERS! I asked, “So what is the differentiation as to what badges are allowed, and which aren’t, and where can I find this written so as to not make the same mistake?” Then he got condescending … “Well, let me explain this in terms you might be able to understand more easily” … then yammered something I already knew. In that yammering he basically said … “Your First Amendment rights do NOT apply in this courtroom!” Yup. I almost laughed out loud! I know my jaw audibly hit the floor. So I asked, “Are you familiar with Cohen vs. California?” He hemhawed and admitted he really didn’t know what it was then said … “Well now you’re getting into legal issues I’m not prepared to discuss.” I said, “It has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court since 1971.” He said … “Well U.S. Supreme Court laws don’t matter in Utah Courts!” WOW!!! Another AUDIBLE jaw drop! Those of you who know me … KNOW that I was now biting my tongue so hard it was bleeding!! Then, the last condescending statement … “I suggest you find a good lawyer and learn your rights!” I smiled, very condescendingly back at him … and in my most sickly sweet condescending tone, I said … “Oh, I KNOW my rights! But thank you!” And I turned and walked away from the podium, at which time I saw Ms. Trunchbull (I mean … the bailiff) ROLL her eyes at me. I leaned down and said … “Oh, honey … you can roll your eyes all you want at me because this is FAR from over!” She said, audibly … “EXCUSE ME!!” (as if I had made a personal threat) … and I said … “I WILL be filing a ‘Notice of Claim’ and you’ll be named as a defendant.”
The ONLY confrontation we had over our badges the entire 4 hours we were there … was the bailiff!! And today, AGAIN, in Judge Johnson’s court … no one said a word!
The open question is whether or not this is par for the course for Utah, or is there a specific prejudice in the courts against Mark Byrge’s case or is this just one rogue judge having a bad hair day?
If you’re interested in the full case behind this you can follow up by reading our previous articles on the Mark Byrge case.
1. Gun Confiscation in Utah County
2. Utah Media White Washes Story for American Fork Police
1. University of North Carolina – Free Speech Rights in Courthouses
2. Case: Cohen V. California