By Bob Saunders
Special to The Vanguard
SAN JOSE, CA – In what could only be described as an act of retaliation and animus against First Amendment Rights, the Santa Clara Sheriffs enforced Santa Clara Superior Court Presiding Judge Patricia Lucas’ standing order, an illegal order (dated 11/30/18) kicking people off the courtyard plaza area last month.
These extra-judicial actions thus barred protesting parents from exercising their right of Free Speech in the “public square,” as well as their right to peaceably assemble.
It has become the pattern and practice of this court and other courts’ judges in violating citizen’s Constitutional Rights by ordering sheriff’s officers to disrupt or arrest a citizen going about their legally accepted business.
In late May, a coalition of family court and Child Protective Services (CPS) parents uniting under the name Families in Resistance, rallied, marched and protested against the draconian, unjust and overreaching policies and actions of the (anti-)family court system and the child snatching agency, CPS.
Starting out in Saint James’ Park nearby, approximately 40 people marched to the Santa Clara Justice Center (one block away) with protest signs and their voices calling for the return of their children, for oversight and accountability of the court system and CPS.
They also demanded an end to Social Security Title IV-D & E, which incentivizes the child support system and the taking of children for financial means, a bonus system for state governments via the Federal Government.
The parent protesters campaigning against the injustices and abuses of the family court and CPS systems were forced off the courtyard plaza area of the Santa Clara Justice Center while exercising their First Amendment Rights of Free Speech and the Right to Peaceably Assemble.
The Families in Resistance coalition is led by California Families Rise and consists solely of parent-led grassroots organizations such as POOR Magazine/Prensa Pobre, Family Court Anti-Corruption Coalition, and the Justice Reform Coalition.
Three years ago, the Santa Clara Family Justice Center is where a parent, Scott Largent, was arrested for protesting on the sidewalk (a public sidewalk), for violating an unconstitutional court order barring protest and leafleting activity on or near its grounds. [See: Scott Largent].
This was just months after a parent, Susan Bassi, a reporter, was arrested for violating a similar court order barring photography inside the courthouse. Bassi also alleged that deputy sheriffs broke her hand and illegally confiscated her phone. [See: Susan Bassi]. Bassi has yet to get her phone back.
Ever since Largent’s arrest, deputy sheriffs have confronted courthouse protestors and dispersed them from public grounds (the Public Square) in their continued and flagrant ignorance and violation of the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment Rights of citizens to exercise their right of free speech and their right to peaceably assemble in public areas.
Sadly, this has become pattern and practice at the Santa Clara Justice Center where the sheriffs, obviously following the orders of their higher ups and the court, essentially enforce an unconstitutional order via the declaration of both the steps of the courthouse and the courtyard plaza as part of their self-created and self-declared “NO Free Speech Zones” and “No Citizen’s Assembly Zones,” along with other make-it-up-as-you-go-along rules.
At one point, quite abruptly, 10 sheriff’s officers, after apparently returning from lunch, emerged from the building with papers in hand to confront the protesters, telling them that they had to leave the steps area.
After making that statement, the officers, armed with papers in hand, handed out a 4-pager of typed directives, signed by Judge Lucas. The papers (document) was named “SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA, AMENDED GENERAL ORDER RE: EXPRESSIVE ACTIVITY, NOTICE TO ALL PERSONS ENTERING COURTHOUSES IN SANTA CLARA COUNTY, THE COURT HEREBY ORDERS:”
The document contained 11 points highlighting what constituted an infraction of their “rules” and the penalties involved for violating them.
Of course, the protesters never attempted to enter the building, never blocked the entrance to the building, never inhibited access to the building in any way, yet they were forced off the plaza’s “public square.” Why? Because the judges don’t like what the parents had to say and did not want to hear them saying it.
This draconian violation of First Amendment Rights “chilled free speech,” in no uncertain terms, in order to not inconvenience the court’s judges and other assorted characters who obviously were unwilling to be held accountable for their bad, unjust, devious and illicit actions in many parenting cases, especially when it involved children.
They did not want to hear or see wronged victims, parents, who fought for their children against a corrupt court system only to be penalized, and in many cases brutalized, by a system that kidnaps and traffics in children for profit and greed.
Far too many children suffer from this incentivized system.
Social Security Title IV-E and Title IV-D federal funding incentivizes state governments to kidnap children and terrorize noncustodial parents. What’s worse is that there is little accountability or oversight of these systems which results in widespread misconduct and abuse of power.
Many forms of shutting down speech is used by the courts to control the narrative and basis of a court case, especially in family court and CPS cases gag orders, vexatious litigant status, limiting time to speak for non-represented litigants (no attorney), threats by judges, physical intimidation by sheriffs’ bailiffs in courtrooms, and more.
The term “chilling effect” has been in use in the U.S. since as early as 1950. History has spoken verses about those times of government overreach in relation to Senator Joseph McCarthy and his witch hunts, HUAC, the demonizing of American citizens who had a different opinion about the state of affairs, and more.
Many careers and lives were destroyed unnecessarily, the U.S. Constitution was shamed and tread upon with disdain, democracy was plunged into darkness, along with the chilling of free speech, for fear of retaliation and more.
The United States Supreme Court first refers to the “chilling effect” in the context of the United States Constitution in Wieman v. Updegraff, 344 U.S. 183 (1952).
We, as a democratic society, must avoid the overbearing temptation to chill free expression and open debate just because we don’t like it, or we don’t want to allow it, or it doesn’t agree with our limited beliefs, however, we must never allow those unhealthy impulses cause us to replace freedom of speech with freedom from speech.
We must always remember that the First Amendment, et. al. is not just a right, it is an obligation. And, those who swore an oath to uphold the United States Constitution need to be held to the strictest standards in maintaining that obligation to the people of the United States of America.
Michelle Chan, the founder of California Families Rise, stated: “If the courts want us to be quiet, then they should stop taking our children, stop using our children as pawns in their money-making profiteering scheme. No more children for profit.”
What is a citizen to do when their rights are violated…I guess, sue the offending parties involved for civil rights violations, and return to the scene of the crime to further exercise their rights.
For more information contact: Michelle Chan, California Families Rise /415-815-9415/ California_Rise@outlook.com
Bob Saunders is a long-time parental rights, family rights and children’s rights activist
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