US Constitution’s First Amendment: Right to Petition for Redress of Grievances
july 1, 2013 by david j. shestokas
The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights addresses five rights. The limits on government interference with religion, speech and the press were the result of the uniquely American experience. The right to peaceable assembly was a needed protection to exercise the first three. The First Amendment’s fifth right will come as a surprise to many. Only 1% of Americans even know that it exists.
The Right to Petition was central to constitutional law and politics in the early United States. It is the First Amendment’s capstone: “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people … to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The Right to Petition is unknown to most Americans, or if known, considered to be an extension of the first four rights, and not a right that stands on its own. This ignores Chief
Justice John Marshall’s declaration: “[N]o provision of the Constitution was meant to be without effect…” Marbury v. Madison,(1803) The Petition Clause has its own distinct history and English roots different than other First Amendment provisions. The Right to Petition has been, in many ways, the First Amendment’s poor relation. It may have been an early casualty as power accumulated in Washington.
Right to Petition for Redress of Grievances Rooted in the Magna Carta The Petition Clause finds its roots in Article 61 of the Magna Carta(1215). Article 61 provided for the presentation of grievances to the king, and required the king to redress grievances within 40 days or risk rebellion. The Magna Carta’s Right to Petition includes, if the right is abridged, the right to wage whatever war against government needed to get just redress. The Magna Carta’s Petition Right included a Right to Rebel in the event that the Right to Petition were abridged. What happened to such a crucial right in the almost 800 years since? Right to Petition Parliament for Redress of Grievances King’s Courts administered by the Lord Chancellor developed to entertain the growth in petitions to redress fostered by the Magna Carta. Over time, Parliament continued to grow in authority and claimed the right to dictate the form of the King’s reply to a petition. In 1414, the House of Commons declared itself to be “as well assenters as petitioners.” Petitioning for redress is by its nature a complaint against the government. In 17th Century England the crime of “Seditious Libel”, consisted of communicating words, pictures, or signs, that defamed, discredited, criticized, embarrassed, or questioned the government, its policies, or its officials. Without special recognition as a right, a petition for redress would be a criminal act. The English Bill of Rights of 1689 gave petitioning a special place by protecting petitions from prosecutions: “That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal” While petitions continued to be addressed to the King, Parliament had in reality taken over both accepting and addressing petitions. The tradition developed that Parliament would respond to petitions with investigation and legislation. Petitioning for Redress of Grievances in the American Colonies In the American Colonies petitioning became the act of submitting grievances to local legislative assemblies. By the early eighteenth century, Americans submitted a wide range of petitions to the locally elected houses of assembly. The balance of royal government in the colonies consisted of an executive, judiciary and an upper house appointed by the king. Petitioning the lower assembly for relief enhanced local authority, and local authorities took petitions seriously. Along with the right to petition was the right to consideration. Colonial petitions addressed a wide range of public and private subjects including religion and the established church, slavery, relations with Great Britain, debt (public and private), taxes, government structure, divorce, appeals from judicial decisions, and naturalization. Petitions frequently set the legislative agenda in the colonies and resulted in laws being passed. The Right to Petition was not limited to voters. Petitions were submitted by women, children and slaves. The elected bodies of the colonies understood their duty was to entertain the petitions of all. This was the background of petitioning when the Declaration of Independence was drafted. The Failure of King George to Address American Grievances Petitioning was an integral part of colonial politics. Colonial assemblies entertained many types of grievances. Many colonial grievances could only be addressed by a response from the King and Parliament. The Declaration of Independence lists 27 grievances against King George and “others”. The Declaration details the colonists’ petitions and the King’s response: “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.” What was left? The Magna Carta outlined the response when Petitions for Redress were ignored: Rebellion.
The Right to Rebellion defined in 1215 was exercised in 1776 and explained in the Declaration. This was the history of America as the First Amendment was drafted. The Right to Petition inherently includes the Right to a Response, and a government failure to respond triggers a Right to Rebellion. The Right to Petition the “Government” for Redress of Grievances As Parliamentary supremacy grew in England it both received petitions and responded. The tradition of petitioning the legislature grew in the American colonies. Under the American Constitution, with government functions divided among three co-equal branches of government, legislative supremacy did not exist. Thus, the First Amendment’s Right to Petition the GOVERNMENT for Redress of Grievances grew from the history but was inherently different. The Petition Clause does not say Congress, the President or the Judiciary. The Clause includes all branches. The Constitution’s Article I vests legislative power in Congress; Article II, the “executive Power” in a President; and Article III “the judicial Power” in the judiciary. Article I, Section 8’s final clause describes a “government” of “powers vested” in three separate branches. The Petition Clause use of the term government acknowledges an individual’s right to invoke government’s “powers” by way of a petition for redress of grievances. The clause thus affirms the right to invoke the government’s “judicial Power” by petition for redress.
The Petition Clause and Sovereign Immunity With the Petition Clause comes a right to petition the judicial branch for redress of grievances against the government. The Petition Clause created a constitutional right. Since less than 1% of Americans even know the Clause exists, it is not surprising that the right has been ignored by the government and largely trumped by the judicially adopted concept of “sovereign immunity”. The idea of Sovereign Immunity is that a government cannot be sued in its own courts absent its consent. The Petition Clause is at odds with that idea. The Petition Clause gives a citizen a right to sue the government for redress of grievances, but Sovereign Immunity says the government has to consent to such a suit. The idea of such immunity is inconsistent with both a republic and the Constitution itself. The Petition Clause is part of the First Amendment. Sovereign Immunity is found nowhere in the Constitution. The people through
The Tenth Amendment reserve all power not delegated to the federal government. There should be no subject matter of a Petition for Redress that is dismissed by a court based upon Sovereign Immunity, nor kept from a decision by a jury.. The Petition Clause Stands on Its Own as a Limit on Government The 800 year history of petitioning for redress found expression in the First Amendment. The Petition Clause acknowledges distinct rights separate and apart from religion, speech, press and assembly. There are no provisions of the Constitution meant to be without effect. The Petition Clause has come to be without effect because Americans have allowed it to happen.
SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY IS FROM THE THE TIME OF UNFETTERED POWER OF THE KING AND HIS USE OF IT TO KEEP HIS SUBJECTS IN BONDAGE. WE FOUGHT THE REVOLUTION TO GET OUT FROM UNDER THAT SLAVERY AND ESTABLISHED A NEW NATION WHERE THE PEOPLE RULE. SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY HAS NO PLACE IN IT. WE WILL ATTACK THIS PRECEPT AS A MATTER OF FREEDOM AND OUR CONSTITUTIONAL AND PRIMARY RIGHT OF LIBERTY 1!
THE ABILITY TO BELAY AND COUNTER THE ILLEGAL "SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY" DEFENSE IS TO USE THE POWER TO THREATEN TO HOLD THOSE WHO CLAIM IT IN VIOLATION OF THE DECLARATION, THE CONSTITUTION AS AFFIRMED BY THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES AND MAKE THEM ENEMIES OF THE CONSTITUTION , LETTING THEM KNOW THAT WILL BE THEIR FATE IF THEY PERSIST IN THIS ILLEGAL POSITION. RIGHTS WERE TAKEN BY FORCE, THEY ARE TAKEN BACK BY GREATER FORCE !!
HOW THE JUDICIARY STOLE THE RIGHT TO PETITION
JOHN E. WOLFGRAM(1)
INTRODUCTIONI.THE HISTORY OF JUDICIAL ARROGANCE TO FOUR CENTRAL ASPECTS OF THE PETITION CLAUSE
A)ASPECT ONE: THE RIGHT OF PETITION FOR REDRESS vs. SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY
B)ASPECT TWO: JUDICIALLY CREATED PERSONAL & OFFICIAL IMMUNITY
C)ASPECT THREE: POLITICAL PERSECUTION FOR EXERCISING PETITION RIGHTS
D)ASPECT FOUR: THE JUDICIAL CONTEMPT FOR PETITIONING TO REDRESS GRIEVANCES WITH GOVERNMENT IN FEDERAL COURT
II.THE DUEL MEANING OF THE PETITION CLAUSE: PROCEDURAL vs. SUBSTANTIVE
III. THE JUDICIARY IS ORGANIZED TO AVOID SUBSTANTIVE REDRESS OF CONSTITUTIONAL GRIEVANCES AND REASONABLE EXPLANATION OF UNREDRESSABILITY
The right (of petition) embraces dissent, and "would seem unnecessary to be expressly provided for in a republican government, since it results from the very nature and structure of its institutions. It is impossible that it could be practically denied until the spirit of liberty had wholly disappeared and the people had become so servile and debased as to be unfit to exercise any of the privileges of freemen." "[D]eprivation of it would at once be felt by every freeman as a degradation. (2)
This writer accepts the political wisdom and practical truth of the above quotation from a case that he presented and lost to the Court of Appeals. This Article examines the mechanisms by which the government has undermined and stolen the Right of Petition presently, and prospectively. To be sure, it has "practically denied" the Right of Petition.
The theme suggests a practical implication. It is not that government has accomplished the "impossible" of practically denying the right, but rather that the "spirit of liberty" has almost "wholly disappeared and the people have become servile and debased." But "fitness" to exercise the rights of freemen is never determined by the many who have become servile, but by the few who refuse, at any cost, to surrender their rights to government.
It is for those very important few, lawyers, ordinary citizens and patriots, who carry the Nation's full burden of liberty on their shoulders, for whom this Article is written.
Forward: The Supreme Court has addressed the Petition Clause in many contexts, but four central aspects of it have been completely ignored. Those central aspects tell the story of how the Judiciary stole the most important parts of the First Amendment Petition Clause: The right of the individual to enforce his rights against government and its agents.
The First Aspect is the right to sue government for redress. Instead of such a right, "sovereign immunity" is the rule, and government can only be sued according to its consent. Immunity abridges the right to redress grievances with government. This aspect demonstrates that sovereign immunity is unconstitutional and irrational. The reason: The right to petition government for redress and governmental immunity from redress, are direct contradictions. The former is our First Amendment. The latter is the progressive result of Supreme Court decisions.
The Second Aspectis the inconsistency of personal and official immunities with the Petition Clause. Immunity "law" evolved from the Court attempting to navigate between that contradiction, on the one hand, and exposing that its immunity jurisprudence has rendered the Constitution all but unenforceable by the people against their government, on the other. That made the law so unnecessarily complex, compound and convoluted that only the rich can afford the attorneys necessary to protect constitutional rights or prosecute rights violators. That is a two-class society in the making because only the rich can obtain justice under the law.
If there is to be personal or official immunity then there must be alternatives consistent with the Petition Clause. Both Chief Justice Burger and Justice Harlan proposed alternatives in their respective opinions in Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).(3) Both the Court, and Congress, has ignored their call.
The Third Aspect is judicial persecution of persons for "criminal exercise" of the Right to Petition. Because the significance of the Petition Clause is so judicially downplayed, United States Attorneys frequently charge protected activity as crimes. Defense lawyers and public defenders are not trained to spot or effectively defend against such abuses. The result is putting thousands of "Political Prisoners" in jail for "criminal exercise" of Petition Clause Rights.
The Right to Petition is necessarily obnoxious to government's will. After all, a petition for redress is a complaint that government violated rights and a demand that it stop, and to compensate the complainant for damages. It should not surprise anyone that government does not want the people doing that effectively. In America, a person who petitions government over grievances of constitutional rights violations that government does not want to hear, can go to prison for felonies like obstruction of justice, bank or mail fraud, or making "false claims."
In the United States today there are thousands of people in federal prisons for acts and intents that were merely an exercise of a Petition Rights that is obnoxious when government (because of immunity) is stone deaf to petitions to redress grievances. It has whole systems of laws to politically persecute those who press their grievances "too far." But the common law history of the Right demonstrates that "too far" is in most cases, a part of the Right of Petition.
The Fourth Aspect is the way the judiciary itself treats the Right of Petition when exercised in the courts. The Court has worked out stringent tests to protect First Amendment Rights requiring government meet standards of "compelling state interest"; "clear and present danger", and striking laws for "vagueness" and "over breadth" that fail the tests. Yet, in petitioning before government's very own courts, the rules are vague, ambiguous, overly broad and judges determine such petitions arbitrarily and without care for the merits by dismissals which are by "law" with prejudice, as if on the merits. Appellate courts simply refuse to address major constitutional issues in unpublished opinions that decide cases without addressing the merits. The Court refuses to hear any of the four aspects raised in this article.
The combined effect of these four arrogances to the Right to Petition leaves the people without effective means to communicate with government through process of law. The Court has often acknowledged that the alternative to judicial process is force. Therefore, in so abridging the right of the people to obtain just redress through the compulsory process of law, the judiciary is setting the people up for violence against government by refusing to hear their cries for justice. That is our government wagging a war of oppression against its own people..
THE ONLY WAY TO FIGHT THE ILLEGAL POSITION AND WIN IS WITH THE HIGHER LAW. WE THE PEOPLE ;HAVE THOSE RIGHTS AS YOU WILL SEE IN THIS WEBSITE. LEARN YOUR RIGHTS AND THEN ENFORCE THEM. WITHOUT THE ABILITY TO ENFORCE YOUR RIGHTS, DO YOU REALLY HAVE THEM ?