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FIJA in the News & FIJActivist & Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 02 Feb 2011

Florida Judge Bans Free Speech and Justice

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Very late last night, the FIJA office got word that our ongoing educational outreach campaign in Florida has gotten a judge’s attention. From James Cox:

Hello Ilo, On my way to talk to the students at USF today, I received a phone call from Anthony Colarossi, Senior Reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. Mr. Colarossi started asking me questions about the recent administrative order, (which is attached) made by Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. on Monday, January 31, 2011. I explained that I did not know about this order, but obviously the educational materials that are handed out have struck a nerve with the judicial system.

The order (click here for the full document in pdf format) states among other things:

NOW THEREFORE, I, Belvin Perry, Jr., in order to facilitate the efficient administration of justice, pursuant to the authority vested in me as Chief Judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida under Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.215, hereby order the following, effective immediately, and to continue until further order:
1. The dissemination of all leaflets and other materials to summoned jurors containing written or pictorial information tending to influence summoned jurors, as well as approaching a summoned juror for the purpose of displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education or counseling with information tending to influence summoned jurors on any matter, question, cause, or proceeding which may be pending, or which may by law be brought, before him or her as such juror, shall be prohibited on the Orange County Courthouse complex grounds.
The term “courthouse complex” and any restrictions on expressive conduct contained herein shall apply to the Orange County Courthouse complex grounds, which includes the adjacent courthouse parking garage, the courthouse courtyard, and all other grounds surrounding the courthouse, from the intersection of Orange Avenue and Livingston Street, to the intersection of Livingston Street and Magnolia Avenue, to the intersection of Magnolia Avenue and Amelia Street, to the intersection of Amelia Street and Orange Avenue, to the intersection of Orange Avenue and Livingston Street. The public sidewalks that comprise the boundaries of this designated perimeter are excluded from this designation of the courthouse complex grounds.
2. The dissemination of all leaflets and other materials to summoned jurors containing written or pictorial information tending to influence summoned jurors, as well as approaching a summoned juror for the purpose of displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education or counseling with information tending to influence summoned jurors on any matter, question, cause, or proceeding which may be pending, or which may by law be brought, before him or her as such juror, shall be prohibited on the Osceola County Courthouse complex grounds.
The term “courthouse complex” and any restrictions on expressive conduct contained herein shall apply to the Osceola County Courthouse complex grounds, which includes the adjacent courthouse parking lot, the courthouse courtyard, and all other grounds surrounding the courthouse, from the intersection of Bryan Street and Rose Avenue, to the intersection of Rose Avenue and Patrick Street, to the intersection of Patrick Street and Bryan Street, to the intersection of Bryan Street and Rose Avenue. The public sidewalks that comprise the boundaries of this designated perimeter are excluded from this designation of the courthouse complex grounds.
3. Regardless of whether the conduct at issue occurs on the courthouse complex grounds, any person who influences the judgment or decision of any grand or petit juror on any matter, question, cause, or proceeding which may be pending, or which may by law be brought, before him or her as such juror, with intent to obstruct the administration of justice, may be in violation of section 918.12, Florida Statutes.
4. Anyone engaging in the type of expressive conduct as contemplated by this Order may be in violation of section 918.12, Florida Statutes, and/or may be found in contempt of court.

This appears to be an intimidation tactic by a bully issued under color of law to circumvent the First, Fifth, and Seventh Amendments to the United States Constitution. While it may be more convenient for the court to have a jury that is easily steered by orders from the bench and selective filtering of the information it is permitted access to, it is NOT the purpose of a jury merely to rubber stamp the decision it is led to by the government. Were this the case, a jury would not be needed at all.

Rather, it is the primary function of the independent juror to protect his or her fellow citizens- both the defendant and the rest of us who will be affected by the outcome of the case and the legal precedent it will set- from abuse by government. As the only people (aside from the defendant) involved in the court proceedings who are not making a living by perpetuating the system as dictated by government officials, jurors have not only a right, but a responsibility, to act independently- to think for themselves, to consult their consciences in deliberations, to judging the fairness and applicability of the law as well as the facts of the case , and to deliver justice when rendering a verdict.

FIJA is an educational organization that seeks to inform jurors of their right and responsibility to deliver justice in all cases where they sit in judgment of another human being. FIJA does not seek to influence jurors in any particular case. Our campaign in Florida, as everywhere else, has been a general educational outreach effort to ALL potential jurors including distributing brochures near courthouses and on college campuses, speaking with community groups around the state, and so on to reach all members of the community. FIJA Director Iloilo Jones invites the judge to review any and all of the FIJA literature (available in our Library) and to point out any instance of such influence or of undue disregard for the functions of the court.

Although we just received word of this late last night, FIJA staff has been hard at work this morning:
1. Roger Roots, a member of our Advisory Board, is reviewing the document and our legal options for challenging this unlawful order.
2. We have begun fundraising efforts to support a legal challenge to the order. If you would like to contribute to FIJA’s efforts, information on making a contribution via our website, my telephone, or by mail is located here.
3. We are asking ALL FIJA activists in Florida to suspend ALL educational activity in the immediate vicinity of the courthouse which this order covers, until this administrative order, which is a heinous, unlawful, corrupt violation of human rights, can be challenged and set aside.
4. Instead, we are requesting that all FIJA activists, in Florida and elsewhere, distribute the brochure located here. Note: The point of this flyer is NOT educational outreach material. This flyer does not address jurors, nor does it discuss the issue of jury nullification. Rather, this flyer is directed to Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. and challenges the legality of his administrative order. We also ask that everyone, everywhere continue to distribute all other FIJA literature, except near the courthouse which is under this draconian order.

Our goal is always, in whatever we do, NOT to give the government the pleasure and satisfaction of arresting peaceful people. Our goal is to embarrass them by pointing out the contradictions of their own actions.

As they transpire, we will post further developments in our efforts to get this draconian order rescinded. If you would like to discuss this situation, we invite you to join us on our Discussion Forum.

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