Hello and welcome to Learning the Law, a podcast about all things legal with a focus on current events where we try and teach you things in an hour. My name is Ashley, aka PhoenixNymphy and my co-host who is the man of the hour, my husband Ron. This podcast is purely educational and should not be taken as legal advice, this podcast does not create an attorney client relationship, this podcast is based on his interpretation of relevant law. Any opinions expressed are the opinions of the individual making them and do not reflect the opinions of any firm, company or other individuals. Ron is a licensed practicing attorney in the state of California.
- Our Weeks
- Questions from the audience
- From Goatboy – Can you succeed from the country and become your own individual state in and of yourself and just live on your own and not pay taxes etc?
ndividuals have tried to use “sovereign citizen” arguments in U.S. federal tax cases since the 1970s. Variations of the argument that an individual is not subject to various laws because the individual is “sovereign” have been rejected by the courts, especially in tax cases such as Johnson v. Commissioner (Phyllis Johnson’s argument—that she was not subject to the federal income tax because she was an “individual sovereign citizen”—was rejected by the court), Wikoff v. Commissioner (argument by Austin Wikoff—that he was not subject to the federal income tax because he was an “individual sovereign citizen”—was rejected by the court), United States v. Hart (Douglas Hart’s argument—in response to a lawsuit against him for filing false lien notices against Internal Revenue Service personnel, that the U.S. District Court had no jurisdiction over him because he was a “sovereign citizen”—was rejected by the District Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit), Young v. Internal Revenue Service (Jerry Young’s argument—that the Internal Revenue Code did not pertain to him because he was a “sovereign yyyyycitizen”—was rejected by the U.S. District Court), and Stoecklin v. Commissioner (Kenneth Stoecklin’s argument—that he was a “freeborn and sovereign” person and was therefore not subject to the income tax laws—was rejected by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit; the court imposed a $3,000 penalty on Stoecklin for filing a frivolous appeal). See also Missett v. Commissioner and Hyslep v. Commissioner.
- Topic of the day – Why we can’t bring lawsuits against representatives
- In August 2006, U.S. Representative John Murtha was sued by U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Frank D. Wuterich, over statements that Murtha had made to reporters about the Haditha massacre, an incident in Haditha, Iraq in which 24 civilians were killed after U.S. troops under Wuterich, a squad leader, opened fire. (Wuterich was later court-martialed, and pleaded guilty to one count of negligent dereliction of duty in connection with the Haditha killings in a plea agreement with military prosecutors, following an investigation begun in March 2006.)
- In his 2006 complaint, Wuterich sued Murtha, alleging that the congressman’s comments to the press that the Haditha killings constituted “cold-blooded murder and war crimes” were defamatory and an invasion of privacy. The remarks were made at a press conference and in a follow-up television interview. Wuterich also sought to compel Murtha to sit for a deposition in the civil case.
- In 2007, U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled that Murtha must testify in the defamation case; in response, commentators expressed concern that Murtha was acting as a lawmaker and was therefore protected by the Speech or Debate Clause. Murtha appealed, arguing that because he was acting in his legislative role when making the comments he had immunity from the lawsuit under the Westfall Act. The Westfall Act is a federal statute that “accords federal employees absolute immunity from common-law tort claims arising out of acts they undertake in the course of their official duties”, and immunizes such employees by substituting the United States itself for the employee as defendant in a case. In 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in Murtha’s favor, accepting his argument that he was acting in an official capacity, concluding that he was immune from suit, remanding the case to the district court and ordering dismissal of the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction due to sovereign immunity.
- The Speech or Debate Clause is a clause in the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 6, Clause 1). The clause states that members of both Houses of Congress
- …shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their attendance at the Session of their Respective Houses, and in going to and from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
- The intended purpose is to prevent a president or other officials of the executive branch from having members arrested on a pretext to prevent them from voting a certain way or otherwise taking actions with which the President might disagree. It also protects members from civil suits related to their official duties.
- A similar clause in many state constitutions protects members of state legislatures in the United States. Legislators in non-U.S. jurisdictions may be protected by a similar doctrine of parliamentary immunity.
Democratic congressman sues Trump over role in Capitol riot
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