This month, defense attorney Drew Justice faced a rather bizarre motion from Assistant District Attorney Tammy Rettig in Tennessee. Rettig was upset that Justice was referring to the prosecution as “the government” — a common description used by both counsel (including prosecutors) as well as judges. Rettig moved for Justice to be ordered not to be call her the government. Justice responded to this clearly absurd and frivolous motion with a request of his own: He asked to be called “Captain Justice” “Guardian of the Realm.”
Rettig filed her motion to correct what she considered a derogatory term: “The State has noticed in the past few years that it has become commonplace during trials for attorneys for defendants, and especially Mr. Justice, to refer to State’s attorneys as ‘the Government.’ The State believes that such a reference is used in a derogatory way and is meant to make the State’s attorney seem oppressive and to inflame the jury.” So it appears “the State” is fine but “the government” is derogatory? I am not sure how long Rettig has been practicing but it really has not been “the past few years.” Prosecutors have been referred to as “the government” since before Marbury v. Madison.
Justice pointed out the obvious to the court but then suggested a compromise: rather than being called “lawyer” or “defense attorney” he would prefer “‘Defender of the Innocent’ . . . or would also accept the designation ‘Guardian of the Realm.’” He also indicated that he would accept “Captain Justice.”
He ended with aplomb: “WHEREFORE, Captain Justice, Guardian of the Realm and Leader of the Resistance, primarily asks that the Court deny the State’s motion, as lacking legal basis.”
What is curious is that, when Rettig did not respond to inquiries, Williamson County District Attorney Kim Helper (right) responded. Helper did not immediately chastise her subordinate for a frivolous and rather juvenile filing. Instead she seemed to defend the motion and criticized Captain Justice: “We’re a little disappointed at the response that talked about ‘Captain Justice, Defender of the Realm.’ From my perspective, it seemed a little bit — I don’t know what the right word would be. The response did not appear to be in good faith.”
First of all, Ms. Helper, it is Captain Justice, Guardian of the Realm, not Defender of the Realm. You are confusing his alternative title as “Defender of the Innocent.” Geez.
Second, if the response did not seem in good faith, you may want to look at the original motion and the standards of your office in filing frivolous papers with the court. I know what the “right word” would be for the motion: “meritless” followed by “ridiculous.”
The court threw out the motion and Captain Justice is back at work defending the innocent against the minions of the government.
Well done, Captain Justice, and Godspeed.
20 thoughts on “Oh Hail, Captain Justice, Guardian of the Realm”
If the justice system that underpins these united States are truly founded upon the principle that a man is “innocent until proven guilty”…
Then we as Citizens have a duty to view the government’s case, nay, every word, as a slander…unless it is shown to be true by a multiple of evidences and witnesses.
This predisposition, requires that we hold the government in low esteem, and treat it as an adversary which is given to treachery.
The judge has a nice sense of humor!
I love this story you present above Professor Turley. 🙂
The latest from Ron Paul on his thoughts on us foreign policy below.
(I like his policy of non- intervention unless called for by congress)
I didn’t address an issue in your post about the notion of “People”.
The issue for determining the proper way to address the prosecution side in a trial, as I see it, is deciding who’s interests are being represented at trial. Surely, the victim is being represented by the prosecutors, but obviously, all of society is is represented as well. “Government” may be too ephemeral a term for the representative of the enduring interests of society. After all, government may be Republican or it may be Democratic, depending on jurisdiction. For that reason, I think the “People” is the more accurate title of address for the prosecution at trial.
Now, if you’re a defendant, then the issue concerning juries is determining who your peers are. I know the courts have addressed this in the past, particularly regarding racial differences between defendant and jury, but I can’t be certain about what the law is regarding jury composition.
In some areas of the country, people are indeed delusional.
I give you Exhibit A: Mitt Romney
I agree. If I’m ever in the soup, I want Cap’n Justice defending me, too.
RTC, While “The People” is a classic and has a populist ring to it, it has a similarly propagandizing effect- who among us are not of the people, except for the DogPack of course. All the people, some of the people, which people, my people? One of the practical arguments for insuring a jury of one’s peers disdains jury packing by race or sex and goes to the heart of people as peers. I may not know exactly who ‘my people’ are legally but if I’m a black female defendant and have a Caucasian Prosecutor and a jury of 12 Caucasian males its probably not my idea of ‘the people’, ‘my people’ and my peers. It’s confusing to us lay-people.
While I like the use of the term “The People” I see problems with it. Your suggestion “Prosecution” and “Defense” is a good one. I’d vote for it.
Also, if I’m ever in trouble I want Drew Justice defending me.
BarkinDog: “If you are gonna be a bear, be a grizzly.”
Words to live by dog, words to live by.
We are the NSA? We are the CIA? We are the IRS? We are Obamacare? It is PAINFULLY clear the government is way too big to be controlled.and if folks can’t see that they are delusional.
Annie, I’ve said it before elsewhere on this blog, but Reagan bears more blame than anyone else in American history for alienating the American people from their own government. It has led to bombings, shootings, the Tea Party, and Ted Cruz.
Another name for the government is the People, which is how cases are cited in Illinois and elsewhere. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that oftentimes the “Government” is charged with representing the victims of criminal behavior.
I maintain what I said at the top of this entry- when you have a jury pool that responds in a predictably knee jerk reaction to the very mention of “government”, then you are fitting them with blinders every time you use the word to refer to the prosecution. They may be unwilling to bear a fair appreciation of the victim’s rights in the outcome of the case.
I see the humor lawyers must get out of this creatively over-the-top response to the Assistant DA’s motion; it masterfully makes the the motion appear ridiculous. But true justice, depending on voter demographics, may require ordering both sides to refer to one another as Defense and Prosecution
When I tell those who are so fearful of big government, “But we ARE the government”, I get a range of responses from perplexed looks to looks of horror, or cries of denial, as if the government is a seperate entity from the citizen. We are a representative democracy, last I looked. This demonizing of our own government has increased to such a degree that I wonder why rightists actually campaign and spend millions of dollars to become a part of what they so fear and loathe.
I think Mr Justice must be a reader of this blog, or be in touch with Prof. Turley for that great response.
The motion is a piece of art. He did point out that “The Defendant” also had negative connotations
Should this Court disagree, and feel inclined to let the parties basically pick their own designations and ban words, then the defense has a few additional suggestions…. First, the Defendant no longer wants to be called “the Defendant.” This rather archaic term of art obviously has a fairly negative connotation…. At trial, Mr. P. hereby demands to be addressed only by his full name, preceded by the title “Mister.”
Alternatively, he may be called simply “the Citizen Accused.” This latter title sounds more respectable than the criminal “Defendant.” The designation “That innocent man” would also be acceptable.”
If you are gonna be a bear, be a grizzly. The Justice forgot the manner in which Ronald Raygun pronounced the word. It is: Guvment.
You can’t write enough for a Hollywood movie script……
As Rand Paul might claim, that’s how you stand up for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
But prosecutors are the government! This is more than frivolous; its crazy!
Awesome article. I have tears in my eyes from laughter. Bravo Mr Turley!
In all of the many criminal cases I worked I never heard the prosecution called “the government.” It’s actually pretty smart and I see no reason it should be disallowed.
I second the denial of the frivolous government motion.
Some California prosecutors like to use the term “the people” when they refer to themselves.
When I addressed envelopes with copies of court filings I was sending to them, I addressed them as:
Of course adding the rest of the address.
But I won the case anyway.
HA! Way to go Drew Justice!!!!!
I think the government attorney’s may have a point here. Ever Reagan pronounced “the government’ as the enemy, repubs have been endlessly drilling that message. Election results would clearly show those areas where their message has taken root.
Since jurors are drawn from registered voters, defense attorneys would be less than shrewd not to take advantage of the negative image created by the not-so subliminal messaging in the minds of the jury. Perhaps prosecutors have been noticing a pattern of verdicts where the negative connotations have effected the outcomes.
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