Center for Individual Liberty
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” —4th Amendment, United States Constitution
Search warrants are critical documents that must be open to public oversight in order to ensure the protection of fundamental Fourth Amendment protected rights.
At the urging of journalists, the Utah court system has recently proposed a change in rules that would end its previous practice of sealing certain search warrants indefinitely. Under the current Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure, rule 40 ensures search warrants are generally sealed for the first 20 days after which they become public. However, the rule also allows sealed search warrants to remain sealed by an application that will maintain the seal indefinitely until the court decides to unseal the warrant for good cause. This unsealing may only be requested by a party who has standing. Thus, warrants that have been sealed longer than necessary will likely remain indefinitely inaccessible to the public.
Yesterday, a group of fathers from around the country filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Utah in federal court for “legalized fraud and kidnapping.” For years, Utah law has allowed biological mothers to leave biological fathers out of the adoption process if the father does not comply with what the suit alleges is a “confusing labyrinth of virtually incomprehensible legal mandates and nearly impossible deadlines in direct contravention of due process, equal protection, and other constitutional rights.” While the suit is being brought by a group of 12 fathers who lost their children with little or no recourse, it is estimated that these practices have also violated the constitutional rights of 300 other similarly situated fathers.
Essentially the process works likes this: two unwed people conceive a child, the father takes an interest in his parental responsibility and desires to raise the child while the mother favors adoption. Over the father’s wishes, the mother secretly travels to Utah where she gives birth and puts the child up for adoption without the knowledge or consent of the biological father. This is usually facilitated by misleading or deceiving the father in some way.
We are pleased by the ruling issued by a federal court judge on Friday to invalidate a key portion of Utah’s anti-polygamy law. Specifically, polygamists are no longer considered felons in Utah for “purporting to marry” and “cohabit” with one another. Pointing to the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause, Judge Waddoups struck down the anti-polygamist portion of Utah’s bigamy clause, leaving intact the portion regarding fraudulently obtaining multiple marriage licenses.
As indicated in our press release, picked up by the Associated Press and others, we view this opinion as a praiseworthy invalidation of an illegitimate law. Further, we recognize it as a welcome affirmation of the key principle that the government has no legitimate authority to punish the peaceful activities of consenting adults. Polygamists should not be deemed felons merely because they are polygamists.
By Gerard P. Howells
I was born 29 years ago in Birmingham in the United Kingdom. I first set my sights on moving to the United States at the age of 16 after reading its founding documents and Thomas Paine’s seminal work, Common Sense. I was attracted, more specifically, by the focus on individual freedom and the enumeration of natural rights that I knew to be essential to the human condition.
It was not, however, until a decade later in the year 2010 when this goal began to become a reality. I was accepted to attend an educational institution in Salt Lake City and hoped to find a way to stay on a permanent basis. Shortly after arriving I was fortunate enough to meet the woman who would become my wife in 2012, after a brief stint back in the UK due to financial difficulties related to being in the United States on a student visa. Under current U.S. law, foreign students are only legally able to work for up to 20 hours per week at the educational institution they are attending, or at a limited number of other institutions approved by the Department of Homeland Security.
On Sunday, Senator Osmond released more specific details of his proposal to reform education law in Utah. The proposal contains three separate pieces of legislation, the first of which interests us the most.
Titled “Parental Right to Educational Freedom,” this first bill would require parents to “choose an educational pathway for each child upon 6 years of age”—the age at which, under Utah law, a child is considered a “school-age minor.” Parents would sign an affidavit indicating whether they will be enrolling their child in a government school, private school, or educating them in the home.
Some parents have voiced concern in social media regarding this requirement, requiring two important clarifications:
This article was written by John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. It is published here with the author’s permission.
“Democracy means that if the doorbell rings in the early hours, it is likely to be the milkman.”—Winston Churchill
It’s 3 a.m. You’ve been asleep for hours when suddenly you hear a loud “Crash! Bang! Boom!” Based on the yelling, shouting and mayhem, it sounds as if someone—or several someones—are breaking through your front door. With your heart racing and your stomach churning, all you can think about is keeping your family safe from the intruders who have invaded your home. You have mere seconds before the intruders make their way to your bedroom. Desperate to protect your loved ones, you scramble to lay hold of something—anything—that you might use in self-defense. It might be a flashlight, your son’s baseball bat, or that still unloaded gun you thought you’d never need. In a matter of seconds, the intruders are at your bedroom door. You brace for the confrontation, a shaky grip on your weapon. In the moments before you go down for the count, shot multiple times by the strangers who have invaded your home, you get a good look at your accosters. It’s the police.
Before I go any further, let me start by saying this: the problem is not that all police are bad. The problem, as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, is that increasing numbers of police officers are badly trained, illiterate when it comes to the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment, and, in some cases, willfully ignorant about the fact that they are supposed to be peacekeepers working for us, the taxpayer.
Investigative journalist Radley Balko has published six articles in a series about efforts in Utah to reform the way police handle drug enforcement cases and the “militarization” trend we’ve become familiar with. Balko, author of the new book Rise of the Warrior Cop, also published a paper in 2006 on the same subject, “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America.” Download a free copy here.
Our proposal, and our president’s profile, is included in the third article. The entire series is worth reading. Here are the articles:
- How A Drug Raid Gone Wrong Sparked A Call For Change In The Unlikeliest State In The Nation
- As The Drug War Escalates, SWAT Teams Become ‘Bullies With Badges And Guns’
- Meet The Activist Who’s Bringing Conservatives On Board The Police Reform Movement
- An Occupy Activist’s New Cause: Drug Raids And Police Abuse
- An Unexpected Reformer Fights To Hold Police Accountable
- A Police Chief Tries To Reform The System From Within
Within a few weeks we hope to announce details about our proposal to establish better guidelines regarding how and when officers may forcibly enter a person’s home. “Like” our Facebook page to stay up to date!
Two bills will be proposed in Utah’s next general session, beginning in January 2014, to raise the age limit for those seeking to purchase tobacco products. Utah law currently prohibits those 18 and younger from “buy[ing] or attempt[ing] to buy, accept[ing], or ha[ving] in his possession any cigar, cigarette, electronic cigarette, or tobacco in any form.”
Two legislators, Representative Powell and Senator Reid, aim to increase that prohibition to the age of 21. Their motives are just, in aiming to decrease addiction to tobacco among young adults, but their means are misguided. Criminalizing legal adults from engaging in a behavior harmful to themselves is not the proper role of government; Utah law should protect people from harm by others, not micromanage their lives to minimize harm they may bring to themselves.
Only five of the 50 states require or permit jury trials for cases where the state is seeking to legally sever a parent-child relationship. The remaining states prohibit the practice, whether through statute, case law, or court rule. Utah should join these few states and buck the trend by allowing jury trials for these cases.
The fate of a family should not be exclusively placed in the hands of a single judge. In our interview last week with Vanessa Sommerfield, whose four children were taken from her under what appear to be extremely dubious circumstances, and whose biased judge refused to recuse herself, a spotlight was directed at one of many cases in Utah where parents have been stripped of their relationship to their children by the state for highly questionable reasons.
Jury trials are a bedrock of the American justice system. During the Stamp Act controversy, John Adams railed against an increase in judicial authority in admiralty courts as “the most grievous innovation of all.” He noted specifically that, “In these courts, one judge presides alone! No juries have any concern there! The law and the fact are both to be decided by the same single judge.”
Weldon Angelos was a Salt Lake City resident who grew up in poverty and struggled to find his way early in life. The son of a Greek immigrant, his family’s financial condition left him wanting much as a child. He found some success as a rap musician, and around the same time began to sell marijuana to make extra cash—to better provide for his own children, he claims.
In 2002 he sold three half-pound bags, worth a total of $350 at the time, to a police informant—an individual who faced his own drug charges but was courting favor of his prosecutors by assisting in catching other alleged criminals. Weldon was arrested by local police officers working in tandem with federal agents.
The informant claimed that Angelos was carrying a gun during the transaction—a claim not substantiated by any evidence. Yet this claim alone served as basis to impose mandatory minimum sentences during prosecution, as Congress had imposed harsh punishments for gun-related drug offenses in hopes of deterring the behavior.