A Texas woman, Susan Cammack, has been fined $500 and sentenced to two years of probation for her role in serving bogus court orders on a judge and lawyer involved in a foreclosure case against her. Comic claims to be a representative of the sovereign nation of Texas was convicted of issuing fraudulent court papers ordering a judge and lawyer to appear before an “international common law court.” What is interesting about this case is that Cammack received a two year sentence of probation for serving what were clearly meaningless and ineffectual papers. She was little more menacing than someone speaking to herself on a subway platform. Yet, her punishment is roughly the same as former Ohio prosecutor Jason Phillabaum of Cincinnati who was given no jail time and had his law license suspended for just a year for filing a false indictment in an actual criminal case. As I said earlier, the treatment of Phillabaum was shockingly light in comparison to what non-lawyers face in less serious cases. It is not that Cammack’s sentence was excessive. The question is how we deal with the most serious forms of prosecutorial misconduct.
A jury northwest of San Antonio found Susan Cammack guilty Wednesday of simulating a legal process after a co-defendant pleaded guilty in August and testified against her. They were part of a group called the Republic of Texas who believe Texas never legally became part of the U.S. and remains a separate nation. The papers came in a foreclosure case against Cammack where the judge and a prosecutor were called to appear before the group’s court, held at a VFW hall in Bryan, Texas. Obviously, those papers (unlike Phillabaum’s false papers) did not have any legal meaning or even presumed legal meaning for the recipients. The group was raided by a joint force from the sheriff’s office, the FBI and other agencies where their computers were seized in addition to various other items from the 20 or so people in attendance.
Republic of Texas “President” John Jarnecke testified at the trial and explained that they view these common law courts as real and added “Like it or not, we’re living in two different worlds . . . The free and independent nation of Texas, where we want to be … and the corporate world of Texas and the United States.”
I understand the need to prosecute Cammack and I am glad that she was not given jail time for this bizarre act. However, the case stuck me as an interesting comparison to the Ohio case where Phillabaum added a charge to a criminal indictment and then signed the document. The prosecutor responsible for the case refused to sign the indictment. Even a secretary had balked at adding the count. However, even with both objecting to the clearly unethical conduct, Phillabaum persisted and ultimately signed the false indictment himself. Unlike Cammack, these papers would have resulted in the conviction of a citizen on unapproved allegations and the denial of the most basic protections of our criminal law system. Yet, Phillabaum will be practicing in less than a year and was given no jail time for his actions.
As for Cammack, she has every right to fight for her belief in the “Republic of Texas” but she will have to refrain from issuing notices from the common law court at the VFW hall.
The “Republic of Texas” continues to have a website with “legal forms” as well as coinage While most of the positions in the House of Representatives still remain “vacant” Cammack is still listed as a member of that body.