It has been 666 days since I gave Sheriff Jim Hammond transportation administrative notice, intended to halt the operation of Jim-Crow policing that has been commonplace in Hamilton County since the 1930s.
That was a personal meeting March 1, 2018. About 10 days previously I had put City of Chattanooga on notice as to the black-letter law that research and study had convinced me the city was ignoring — much to the grief of its residents and visitors.
Sheriff Jim Hammond, in following court policy vs. the black letter law and the constitution, is suffering months of grief and sadness as his deputies — Daniel Wilkey, for instance — rage against the people, often using the powers that my notice seeks to limit.
These are powers under Tenn. Code Ann. Title 55 that only the Tennessee highway patrol is authorized to enforce.
As a Christian I have viewed this work of legal reform as part of my ministry, part of my declaring the law of God and the promises of the Lord Jesus Christ upon those who come to him and wish to live under his government, of the increase of which there shall be no end (Isaiah 9).
My work is that of Christian deacon
In recent days I have approached the deacons of my church, North Shore Fellowship, asking them to take an interest in these labors of research, publication and Christian action. My desire is to work in amity with others on these conflicts in the interest of the gospel and to promote peace in Chattanooga and Hamilton County.
In calling officials to account, I call them to align themselves to God’s law of liberty, justice and freedom, to obey Romans 13 rather than play the part of the beast in Revelation 13. This ministry of profession and proclamation is like that of the church minister. He edifies and equips God’s children; my work seeks to encourage those outside the church, in the public sphere, to pursue righteous and edification of themselves and the people.
The city and county have ignored my legal notice, and thereby ignoring also the limits and disability of the law they are ostensibly enforcing in every traffic arrest (in law, a traffic stop is a traffic arrest, State v. Garcia).
The people most badly damaged by what we can euphemistically call overenforcement of the law are the poor, orphans and widows, aliens and strangers — specifically African-Americans.
3 areas of work
My legal reform effort has three main parts.
- ➤ Calling authorities to account for violations of the freight and trucking law.
- ➤ Calling authorities to account for violations of the arrest by officer without a warrant law.
- ➤ A demand for a proper of grand jury to hear about these abuses.
Highlights are as follows.
➤ The Tennessee highway patrol is the sole enforcement authority for the Tennessee carrier statute.
➤ Police departments and sheriff’s departments enforce these laws outside any delegated authority, and in violation of state and federal law.
➤ In 2018 I placed city and county under transportation administrative notice Regarding the misuse of police power on the basis of the state trucking / shipping / freight law. I hope within 3½ years to halt all traffic stops of private roadway users who are protected under this law.
➤ The first use of administrative notice could happen in Hamilton County criminal court in the Daniel Wilkey criminal case and civil cases. Deputy Wilkey was following the sheriff’s policy of using Title 55 for traffic enforcement, though the sheriff apparently in bad faith and with malice failed to tell Deputy Wilkey that he has no authority to stop people on the road under that law. That is because I gave the sheriff notice of the limits of the law and of our constitutional rights on March the 1st, 2018. The sheriff’s use of this statute seems to have been done in bad faith, knowingly and intentionally.
➤ An ally in these labors has filed a criminal complaint against high state officials for the program that harvests the poor into the courts. This mechanism deprives poor folks of driver licenses if they are too impoverished to pay “court debt.” The law was overturned in 2018, but little has been done to ameliorate the particular abuse in view by U.S. district judge Aleta Trauger.
➤ More strongly in view is the drivers license in the vast world of state privilege. The driver’s license is required of people whose occupation is transportation. State law and court cases make clear that a privilege is a taxable activity and/or occupation. Driver’s licenses are the most common form of privilege in Tennessee. Virtually every adult member of our church has applied for and obtained this privilege.
➤ This project has developed important means of defense by the individual criminally charged under the traffic law. The defense is asking for proofs from the moving party, the police officer, that he obtained evidence of privileged activity. These would include invoices, bills of lading, passenger lists, contracts and the like, all liable to be there in any commercial use of the road. The bar and low level judges have pretended these defenses do not exist, but they are making headway.
➤ The highway patrol is the sole agency to enforce this law; that means that anybody else who enforces this law acts without warrant or a delegation of authority appears to be committing a federal offense.
➤ Whether awareness of notice has taken hold among African-Americans is hard to tell. Notice is intended to be a practical remedy in light of judicial acceptance of these abuses. It is they I intend to liberate first from official misuse of policing.
➤ The abuse of the arrest by officer without a warrant statute means that Tennesseans live under a system of general warrants, which are outlawed. The statute is TCA 40-7-103. It is disregard for this law about which I am asking for an audience with the grand jury.
➤ I’m convinced by two U.S. Supreme Court cases that Tennessee’s grand jury foreman appointment system is unconstitutional.
How God’s law works in Chattanooga
In all these matters or principles of God’s law that I am able to defend. Grand juries, for example, are supposed to reflect God’s interest in the common people and the priesthood of all believers. Foremen are supposed to be randomly selected members of the grand jury first and then elected foreman. In the current scheme, local criminal court judges select the foreman. This process constitutes a major due process violation for every person accused of a crime. Grand juries no longer a representative of the people, but are statist and pro-police bodies.
The right of free movement and travel is a concept that comes only from Christianity, and is a fundamental liberty. The right to be free from warrantless arrest is a God-given liberty reflecting a free society and a society governed by respect of the individual by the civil magistrate. The more God has claim on a culture or city, the more free it will become in the direction of these labors. Our church should be a beacon of hope for these concepts and these forms of liberation.
If we can make any progress in aspects of ministry, we have evangelical and biblical gains to report.
In my former church, Brainerd Hills Pres, I held office as deacon. I don’t hold that office now, but my professional calling in these areas is flavored with the diaconal duty. I do not believe I can make time for traditional deacon duties, but in 2020 will seek the interest of my church in these labors of mercy and justice.