A Voice for Incoherence

by Edgar J. Steele

July 3, 2002

"See the happy moron -
He doesn't give a damn..."
   ----Ogden Nash

"The world is full of morons," I intoned solemnly as my son turned fourteen this year.  "That's the Fourth Immutable Law of the Universe, and don't you forget it."

I've been doling out these universal truths, one at a time, as a part of preparing him for life.  Admittedly, I haven't made any of them up, but I am responsible for assembling them in this form.  I always stay one or two ahead of him and will provide the last, number ten, just as he is ready to graduate from high school, less than four years from now.

Here's where I am so far:

  1. Men are right.
  2. Women are slow.
  3. Mom is never wrong.
  4. The world is full of morons.
  5. The old ways are the best ways.
  6. Pigs get fat – hogs get slaughtered.
  7. Do the right thing; not the smart thing.

Yes, I know - please don't email me about what an insufferable male chauvinist pig I am.

Years ago, a vice president of the company for which I then worked had a plaque in his office which read:  "There is no defense against stupidity."  I recall being annoyed with his outright arrogance - and that plaque was the least of it.  That his name was Goldberg will be no surprise to many.  Time and again, however, the world has shown me the inherent wisdom of that homily, though I would never dream of giving it such a place of prominence in my life.  

There are some truths better left alone.  Such as, "The world is full of morons."  That doesn't make them any less true.

My last, No Justice for the Politically Incorrect , recounted the latest stopover in the Christine case, wherein I bemoaned the injustice of the legal system and the manner with which it deals with the politically incorrect.  

I have said it before, but it bears repetition:  the legal system is irretrievably broken.  And, there is no fixing it, most particularly not by using the system's own mechanisms in the attempt.  

Once in the system, one can only hope to exit by using the rules of the system itself, however unfair they may be.  Best, by far, is staying out of the system altogether, particularly if you are the type that it inherently dislikes.  Today, aside from true criminals, that means the politically incorrect.

However, there is another aspect to the legal system that bears examination, particularly by the politically incorrect, and it played a key role in the Christine case.  There is a cottage industry that has grown up around the legal system, an industry that the Internet, more than anything else, has made possible.  It has no real name as yet, though its denizens go by a host of labels, some self applied and some applied to them by others.  "Constitutionalist" is the one that I hear most often, spoken proudly by those within this faction and derisively by those outside.  

The irony is that there is nothing Constitutional about most of these people; Thomas Jefferson would have shot them dead on the front lawn of the White House (didn't know that he actually did that once, did you?).

The members of this legal "black market" espouse all manner of tricks and tactics purporting to allow one to elude the consequences of one's own actions (as in the liens employed by those people in Montana, you know, the "Just Us" guys) or to foil the evil members of the formal legal system.  They are particularly taken with the UCC system, for some unfathomable reason (it applies to products in commerce only, by the way).

One of my favorites is the suggestion that so often is thrown at me, encouraging me to get my clients to "opt out" of American society by becoming something called "sovereign citizens."  Supposedly, then they cannot be touched by the authorities.  Right.  Problem is, nobody told the authorities.

Another problem is that many people, once they run afoul of the system in some manner, actually listen to these self-styled "Constitutional Counselors," or whatever they might pretend to be.  This is particularly true of the politically incorrect, who have a well-justified distrust of anything formally associated with or a part of the legal system.

Brian and Ruth Christine fell for this swill when their children were first taken from them.  For six months, they listened to various members of this pseudo-legal jungle in and around Grants Pass, Oregon.  For six months, while within the system, they did all the wrong things, as a result.  

The Christines were just kids, themselves.  They deserved better.  The worst Public Defender in town could have gotten their children back for them in six months.  Due to the "guidance" they received from their "advisers," however, they were receptive to the help of a real lawyer only after they were in jail, having been arrested and charged with a litany of heavy-duty felonies, including Kidnapping and Robbery.  Only after their situation had become essentially hopeless, in other words. That was when I entered their case.

They had public defenders for a brief interlude, who conned them into signing off on a termination of their parental rights to their three oldest girls.  Frankly, that very likely would have happened by court edict, anyway, but was not something I could have recommended they accept without a fight and a formal trial.

I did take them through their kidnapping trial on a variety of felony charges, some lesser and some major.  My standard for a win was defeating the major felonies.  There really was no hope that they would walk free on everything.  They got tagged only with Robbery I, a so-called "Measure 11" felony, which we have now appealed.  I think we have a pretty good chance of overturning this conviction in the appellate courts.  That would shorten their current sentences by years.

Until yesterday, the Christines were faced with another trial, this time in Grants Pass, in two weeks' time.  Offered a deal by the district attorney handling those charges (again, a blizzard of felonies and misdemeanors), which involved pleading out to one felony each, with Brian pleading to another related to a traffic stop, they decided they would rather not endure another trial.  

Pleading out was their decision alone, but I believe it was the correct one.  I made no recommendation, one way or the other.  The time prescribed by the sentencing judge runs concurrent with their present sentences; in other words, there is no additional penalty other than the sting of those who incorrectly say they have now admitted they did wrong to begin with.

So, I didn't make a silk purse out of the sow's ear of a case that I was handed, but I did make a pretty nifty pigskin wallet!  All in all, not bad, particularly considering I've been working for free.  And that made me feel pretty good about things.  Until today, when one of the Grants Pass legal illiterati so responsible for Brian and Ruth losing their kids and being in prison actually had the effrontery to accuse me of selling the Christines out.

Meet Pamela Gaston, who maintains a web site and sends out a daily flurry of often-incoherent emails, all under the title, "A Voice for Children."  Her husband, Will, sat directly behind me throughout the Christine trial (if you watch it on CourtTV in two weeks, he is the burly fellow with the shock of white hair and bushy beard to match). 

Will Gaston repeatedly told me, both during the trial and after, that he had never seen a better job than the one I did.  Now, if you believe his wife, Pamela, he really thought that I was key in constructing a legal abomination.  Either he was lying then, or he is lying now...or Pamela is lying about what Will thinks.  I suspect the latter, frankly, since she seems to be the real voice for incoherence behind their web site.

Until now, Brian and Ruth Christine's directive that I leave the Grants Pass courthouse crazies alone is all that has kept me from taking them on, both directly via the Internet and indirectly, via the local District Attorney.  Pamela Gaston's recent assault upon my legal honor has released me from that restriction.

The Gastons filed a petition of some sort with the judge during the Christine trial.  It was genuinely laughable, reflective of what unschooled children might imagine legal documents should be.  At my urging, the judge decided not to embarrass them by ruling it to be the sort of pseudo-legal tripe that it was.  They apparently now are filing it with other courts.  

Also, during this trial, another of the crazies endeavored to challenge the judge's jurisdiction, claiming that the oath he took when initially sworn in as a judge was lacking a word or two.  This "defective oath" business is a favorite of this crowd in Oregon just now, particularly Pamela Gaston.  It is, in a word, irrelevant and totally without merit.  The Gastons now seize upon this poppycock to claim that I was part and parcel of a conspiracy against the Christines.

Because of advice like this, given by Pamela Gaston and a few others in the Grants Pass area, the Christines are a permanently broken family and Brian and Ruth will spend several years in prison.  

Because of you, Pamela Gaston....because of you.

There is no defense against stupidity, as the sign said.  And, don't forget, the world is full of morons.  Perhaps it is Pamela's sense of guilt that causes her now to turn on me and blame me for all that has befallen the Christines.  Remember that I entered after everything had already happened, Pamela, whereas you were there from the start, whispering in their ear.

Regardless of how Brian and Ruth might feel about it, I am filing a formal request with the DAs of Jackson, Josephine and Douglas Counties, as well as the Oregon State Bar Association, that Pamela Gaston (and others, if indicated) be criminally prosecuted for the Unauthorized Practice of Law.  There is such a crime and it is rarely prosecuted.  If ever there was a case that cried out for it, this is it.  A borderline lunatic like Gaston staggers around, mouthing enough nonsense to persuade the naive that she actually knows something, then gets them to do something really stupid, which redounds to their extreme detriment.

There are important lessons to be gleaned from this tragedy.  I assume you already realize there is no justice to be gotten from the legal system, of course.  Today's lesson, and it is especially for the politically incorrect, a great many of whom subscribe to this list:  stay away from pseudo lawyers.  

While there is some good advice out there, given by nonlawyers, it is impossible for any but practicing lawyers to separate the wheat from the chaff.  And illegal, when profferred to others, whether for a fee or not.  And the chaff can get you into serious trouble...just look at Brian and Ruth Christine.  Best to stay away from it all.  In particular, stay away from Pamela Gaston and the extensive bad advice she offers via her website and her emails.  She will get you into trouble, just as she has the Christines.

Ask a lawyer, instead.  It will be the best advice you ever bought.

Stay out of the system if at all possible, and at all costs.  If you find yourself in the system, resolve to play by the rules toward the quickest exit possible.  That requires a competent lawyer or equal measures of self-taught real law and pure luck.  There is no short cut.  All other approaches will end in disappointment, if not prison.

Of course, a great many lawyers are morons, too.  And there may well be no defense against stupidity.  Be accountable.  If they can't explain it to you in words that you understand or it doesn't make sense in the tradition of "there's no such thing as a free lunch," then go elsewhere.

And that's the best free legal advice you have gotten all day, I'd wager.

-ed

"I didn't say it would be easy.  I just said it would be the truth."
            - Morpheus

Copyright © Edgar J. Steele, 2002

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