Are Florida's Judges For Real?
Chief Judge Joseph Farina of Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit has commissioned a criminal investigation of Judge Dava J. Tunis for allegedly having a forged loyalty oath filed on her behalf. Additionally, her oaths were not notarized as required by law, a crime that could carry severe penalties.
According to attorneys and legal researchers, the violation is actually a statewide problem.
“There may be other judges in the state as well who have not complied with this crucial law, so this may be a scandal that engulfs Florida’s bench,” Attorney Jack Thompson said. “This thumbing of their noses by judges at the law and the Constitution is what we are increasingly seeing from judges at all levels, state and federal.”
The case against Tunis was brought to light by Thompson after a scuffle with the video game industry resulted in disciplinary proceedings against him under the judge in question - this is despite Thompson’s good standing with the Florida Bar for over 30 years. The law requires all public officers to swear notarized loyalty oaths to both the State and Federal Constitutions, so Thompson maintains that Tunis is not eligible to collect a paycheck or use the title “judge,” let alone make rulings.
The Christian attorney is well known for his campaigns to stop the peddling of objectionable music or video games to children. He says that because of his successes, the “big money” of his wealthy opponents is being used to try and stop him from practicing law. The Florida Supreme Court assigned Tunis as the referee in Thompson’s disbarment proceedings, so he sought to have her disqualified because of her alleged prejudice against him.
He said his investigation led to an expert witness who will testify that Tunis allowed someone to forge her signature on the loyalty oath required by Florida Statute 876.05 and United States Code Title 4 sections 101 and 102. He is seeking what is called a “judgment of ouster” in accordance with Florida law if Tunis cannot prove her right to hold office.
Additionally, Thompson claims to have discovered that Tunis did not even have a valid oath on file at the beginning of her current term. The governor made the appoint, but he failed to require her to swear the oaths prior to allowing her to start performing duties or collecting pay.
According to Florida legal researcher Bob Hurt who has studied the issue and even written a book that helped draw attention to the problem, someone in the State Department ordered the notarization requirement removed during Jeb Bush’s first term as governor. That omission rendered the forms null and void because the U.S. and Florida Constitutions require the oath, and the law requires that it be properly notarized.
In the summer of 2006, Hurt unearthed what he calls a massive scam involving the loyalty oaths. Without the signature and seal of a notary, a public officer cannot legally prove that they actually swore the oath, so it is not recognized as valid, he said. Without being legally bound to the law which protects the rights of the people, Florida’s judges were allegedly running rampant.
“It could have been signed by a spouse or friend for all anyone knows,” Hurt explained. “So the people of Florida, through the legislature, require the proper, notarized oath,” he said. According to Hurt, the missing ‘jurat’ means none of the elected officials who swore the oath between 2000 and summer 2007 can prove it, and therefore did not even qualify for office.
The only notarized loyalty oaths on file for the judges in Alachua County and the entire 8th Judicial Circuit were all filed in late 2007 or early 2008 as well. No documents stretching back to 2000 were immediately available, supporting the allegations being made by a growing body of Florida activists, researchers and attorneys.
Thompson might even be entitled to special compensation for blowing the whistle on Tunis, Hurt said. By accepting compensation while allegedly not being legally qualified for office, Tunis owes all that money back to Florida’s Chief Financial Officer.
Thompson has already asked Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum to file an action against Dava Tunis under the False Claims Act. McCollum will probably refuse to do it, Hurt expects, so Thompson may eventually file it himself. The False Claims act entitles him to a 15% whistle blower reward.
“Jack lucked out by obtaining the evidence that her oath is a forgery,” said Hurt. “This puts Dava Tunis in a unique category of people with invalid oaths.”
Thompson, Hurt and many other attorneys and legal researchers in the state have suggested that the violation may involve more than just judges.
“None of the officials elected or appointed since 2000 have a valid candidate oath. That includes the Governor, Attorney General, Supreme Court justices, legislators, State Attorneys, County Commissioners, Sheriffs, Tax Collectors – in short, everyone,” Hurt said. He claims that every elected and appointed official without a valid candidate oath, public officer’s oath, and public employee’s oath on file for the current term is guilty of violating three criminal Florida statutes under the chapter on Treason and criminal anarchy:
Thompson actually faces an even bigger hurdle that came to light during Hurt’s research. As a result, he has encouraged Thompson to take matters to federal court and officially challenge Florida’s form of government.
Hurt believes the government of Florida does not constitute a republic as guaranteed to the people by Article IV Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution for two reasons:
“In 1949 the Florida Supreme Court absorbed and integrated the Florida Bar with the court, making the Bar and all its members also members of the Florida judiciary,” Hurt explained. Article II Section 3 of the Florida Constitution prohibits members of one branch of government from working in any other branch. “It makes exceptions of the Attorney General and State Attorneys, but it shouldn’t,” Hurt continued. The implications of this have been called “earth-shattering” by observers.
Hurt is hoping the US Department of Justice will “come down hard on the government of Florida for tolerating a judicial oligarchy and using it to abuse the people and minimize the other branches of government,” he said. Thompson might function perfectly in bringing the issue to the DOJ and U.S. Supreme Court.
“Jack has the motivation, the professional need, and the raw lawyering skills to push this issue all the way to the top,” he said. “He won’t do it now because he first has to obliterate the efforts to disbar him. If and after he prevails, maybe he’ll accept the challenge.”
Another Florida attorney who spoke with The Liberty Sentinel said he considers Thompson somewhat eccentric, but that he raises very important points on this issue.
More troubling to others is that the failure to comply with the legal requirements for oaths of office has come during a time when our constitutional form of government has come under attack.
“Of the first ten amendments that compose The Bill of Rights, I can think of only one that hasn’t been explicitly or implicitly violated – that being The Third Amendment, which prohibits the quartering of soldiers in private homes,” said Miami Attorney and constitutional law expert Elaine McKillop.
The U.S. Supreme Court and the Attorney General of Florida have ruled that the loyalty oath is constitutional, and that it must be complied with strictly. Ignorance of the law is also not considered an excuse for violating it, so experts say penalties could be stiff.
Hurt runs an online group about legal issues at groups.google.com/group/Lawmen.
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