Free Speech Watch: Prior Restraint Makes a Comeback as US Courts Seek to Squelch Dissent
Barbara Stone was only able to get out of jail when she agreed to stop blogging. Patty Reid is on the lam. Cary-Andrew Crittenden may be facing further jail time for his efforts to inform others about problems in the Santa Clara County legal system. And Ginny Johnson is under a gag order which nearly eventuated in a close encounter with a jail cell.
All these individuals are experiencing, up close and personal, the limits of free speech when that speech inconveniences someone more powerful than they. Twenty, thirty years ago none of these individuals would have faced the grave legal problems they now confront. But thirty years ago, the legal system in the US was not yet in free fall.
The devolution of the US legal system is evidenced in the existence of a dual legal system, wherein there abides two parallel—and often contradictory—systems of law. One system is the written code—the Constitutional and statutory mandates. The other system is what a judge does in his courtroom. And increasingly, judges are acting like monarchs, unaccountable to anyone.
Increasingly, judges are issuing orders which amount to prior restraint when an individual’s speech becomes politically inconvenient.
This is well expressed when First Amendment (freedom of speech) issues collide with governmental imperatives. Prior restraint, that is the imposition of gags or inhibitions on speech not yet spoken, is illegal in the US, according to the written code. Increasingly, however, judges are issuing orders which amount to prior restraint when an individual’s speech becomes politically inconvenient.
A previous article discussed the plight of Barbara Stone, whose mother is under a guardianship in Dade County, Florida. Upon visiting her mother in the home in which the guardian had placed Helen Stone, Barbara was shocked to find her mother emaciated and on a feeding tube. Barbara then allegedly took her mother to lunch.
She was subsequently arrested and charged with “custody interference,” and up until recently was confined to house arrest, an electronic tracking bracelet ensuring her compliance.
The problem was that Barbara would not shut up. She filed a number of lawsuits against guardianship court Judge Michael Genden and also against guardian Jacqueline Hertz and her attorney, Roy Lustig, as well as criminal court judge Victoria Brennan and Governor Rick Scott. She also launched a blog with the purpose of exposing the parties involved in what she termed the continuing abuse of her mother. Tiring of her complaints, Judge Genden charged her with criminal contempt for failing to show up at a court hearing and Barbara went into lock-up.
This past week, Stone, who is licensed to practice law in the state of New York, secured her release from jail at a significant price. She has agreed to stop blogging and also, significantly, to not file further papers in her mother’s case without a lawyer. In other words, the price of her freedom was prior restraint.
Stone’s situation is not unique. Recently, the Washington Post ran an article in which attorney Eugene Volokh, summarized the issue as follows: ”….criminal harassment laws and restraining order laws have been morphing from restricting unwanted speech to people into restricting speech aboutpeople.” (emphasis added)
While the law previously focused on protecting people who didn’t want to be contacted by certain people, Volokh has noted that “courts and prosecutors have increasingly used these laws to cover statements said to the public at large about particular people.”
Fellow Floridian Patty Reid attempted to support Barbara Stone. Reid, who worked in the nursing home wherein Helen Stone had been placed by her guardian, filed an affidavit with the court, stating that Helen was not being adequately cared for in the home and wished to return to her own home and live with her daughter, Barbara.
Reid has a son who is under a guardianship. Landon Reid, who is twenty years old, has been blind from birth but other than that, states his mother, has no disabilities. Shortly after Reid filed her affidavit in the Stone matter, she was summoned to court to have her custody of her son revoked. She was also let go from the nursing home.
And that is when Patty and Landon fled. In a recent interview with Patty, who is in an undisclosed location, she stated the following:
“I have cared for my son since birth. Why would I ever turn him over to a court which has proven itself to be abusive to its wards?”
Several years ago, a New York woman named Nellie Lopez, who has a disabled daughter, also fled the jurisdiction when her daughter was facing institutionalization, on the orders of the guardian. Lopez was subsequently arrested by the FBI.
In Northern California, Cary-Andrew Crittenden is now facing jail for making politically charged allegations, publicly, concerning “particular people.” In this case, the particular people are public servants in Santa Clara County, California, whom Crittenden has alleged are violating the law with impunity. In pursuit of correcting what he believes were wrongs done to others, he utilized the internet to post banners, featuring pictures of SC County police officers, as well as a summary of their apparent wrongdoing, with their phone numbers and addresses. One of his banners names a former San Jose police officer, Robert Ridgeway, whom Crittenden alleges evicted a brain damaged woman from her home, under questionable circumstances.
Crittenden was charged with “using an electronic device to harass and instill fear.” He pled no contest and was released after a couple of days. He was shortly re- arrested for a probation violation. The violation revolved around a further public internet posting. He served twenty days and a few months later was again re-arrested.
Crittenden was sitting in a Starbucks in Palo Alto this past February when approached by Santa Clara County plainclothes detectives. Detective Tarazi demanded the password for the computer that Crittenden was using. He replied that the computer belonged to a Heidi Yauman and declined the request. Crittenden was subsequently arrested again and charged with another probation violation. This time, Crittenden spent forty days in jail.
One of the concerns which prompted Detective Tarazi to approach Crittenden at Starbucks was a posting about a deputy district attorney, James Leonard. According to the police report, this posting “indicated DDA Leonard was a corrupt attorney and a parasite.”
In the process of reviewing Crittenden’s allegations and his several arrests, this reporter did a search for James Leonard’s financial transactions vis a vis his home loans, on the Santa Clara County Grantor Grantee index. It is known that members of the government legal profession, be they district attorneys or judges, have laundered pay offs through their home loans.
The search for Leonard’s home loan history produced concerning results. It appears that Leonard has reconveyed loans on his personal property no less than ten times in the past fourteen years. This excessive loan activity is generally seen as a red flag, indicating that a public official may very well be feeding at the “pay off/bribe/money laundering” trough.
This information was forwarded to the Santa Clara County DA’s office and a request for reply was tendered. At the time of going to press, no reply has been received.
Ginny Johnson, who is a business owner in Raleigh, North Carolina, has also fallen prey to the “particular people” caveat. Johnson’s father, WWII veteran Hugh Beverly Johnson, went under a guardianship with an attorney named Linda Funke Johnson (no relation) as court-appointed guardian. In an application for a temporary restraining order filed by Linda Johnson in August of 2014, she stated that Ginny had sent out emails, to her and to others, alleging that the guardian had “mismanaged her father’s real property and personal belongings and abused Defendant’s father.”
Without any finding of libel or slander by a court of law, Linda Funke Johnson declared these emails to be defamatory and injurious to her profession as a lawyer. Her request for a restraining order was granted without any evidence being tendered that Ginny Johnson’s allegations were false.
The order, signed by Judge Kendra Hill, stated that Ginny Johnson shall “neither communicate nor have contact of any kind, with or concerning Linda F. Johnson.” The judge went on to order that “Violation of this order shall be punishable by criminal contempt of court, including the possibility of imprisonment.”
That is some protection racket….
As Administrator of her father’s estate, Ginny Johnson has sued Linda F. Johnson, alleging that she dumped Hugh Johnson’s home, valued at $1,179,907.00 dollars, for $683,000.00. In addition, the complaint filed by Ginny Johnson against the guardian alleges that Linda Johnson used proceeds from the sale of Hugh’s home to pay encumbrances on that property which were the responsibility of her sibling, Susan Morton. That lawsuit is pending in court.
The above cases are indicative of a trend in jurisprudence which effectively squelches outcries of dissent. As attorney Ken Ditkowsky has written,
“Free Speech is dangerous to the health of dishonest political figures.”
“The Rule of Law is not only aborted, but the core values of America are sold to the highest bidder. Statutes reiterating the Rule of law are rendered impotent – not by corrupt judicial decree, but by fraud on the part of judicial officials charged with protecting the public.”
“The American Bar Association is silent. The ACLU is silent…. The Civil Rights organizations are silent. Political figures running for office are silent. Who is defending the Constitution and our liberty?”
After over fifty years of practicing law in Illinois, Ditkowsky was suspended from the legal profession by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission for the act of sending emails to government officials asking for an honest and comprehensive investigation into the abuses going on in guardianship proceedings. Attorney JoAnne Denison, also licensed to practice in Illinois, was suspended for running a blog, marygsykes.com, critical of guardianship practices in Illinois and elsewhere
Janet C. Phelan
New Eastern Outlook