ORLANDO – A Libertarian activist who has been involved in civil disobedience efforts since the 1940s is planning to come to Orlando next month to defy a judge’s administrative order banning people from distributing flyers to prospective jurors.
“We are not going to let this go unchallenged,” Julian Heicklen said. “We need to give the courts some time to react. But sooner or later, myself and others will defy the court order.”
Heicklen said he plans to protest an administrative order by Judge Belvin Perry Jr., chief judge of the Circuit Court of the Ninth Judicial Circuit, blocking anyone from distributing flyers from FIJA, or the Fully Informed Jury Association, based in Helena, Montana. FIJA encourages jurors to engage in jury nullification, meaning they can vote to acquit the person being prosecuted if they dislike the law that person is being charged with.
Mark Schmidter, a local Libertarian activist and supporter of FIJA’s cause, had been distrubuiting their flyers at the Orange County Courthouse between September and Jan. 31, the day Judge Perry issued his order blocking anyone from handing the flyers to jurors on Orange or Osceola county courthouse property.
“FIJA has filed some litigation that supposedly has put the court on the spot,” Schmidter said today. “Everything is just kind of on hold to see what Perry is going to do – is he going to ignore it or answer it? But FIJA does not want anybody arrested anywhere at any time. That’s their standard policy. They’re concerned that would discourage people like me taking their time to further FIJA’s cause. It kind of makes sense when you think about it.
“But the trade off is, are we going to be passive,” Schmidter added. “Is that going to work to help this country, or will we be pro-active?”
After the judge issued his order, Schmidter said Heicklen contacted him to let him know he wanted to help.
“Julian is coming to Orlando, and he’s expecting to get arrested without the auspices of FIJA,” Schmidter said. “He’s notorious on that one. He believes the way you get things done is in-your-face defiance, and the guy’s got a really good point there.”
“I’ve been arrested 30 times,” said Heicklen, a retired Professor Emeritus at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania and the author of the recently published book The Non-Trials as lived by Julian Heicklen, which is available on Amazon.com by logging onto http://www.amazon.com/Non-Trials-lived-Julian-Heicklen.
“I will hardly notice the difference,” he added.
Heicklen, who has run for statewide office in Pennsylvania on the Libertarian Party ticket, said this has been a decades-old crusade for him: to stop the federal government from passing multiple laws aimed at controlling people’s behavior.
“I’ve been involved now since the 1940s on civil rights activities, and I started getting involved when I was in high school,” he said, adding that Perry’s administrative order is confusing because it doesn’t clarify how distributing the FIJA leaflets tampers with jurors.
“I don’t understand the judge’s order,” he said. “There are higher court decisions that refute that.”
Schmidter said he has no plans to abandon this cause, either, although he won’t return to the Orange County Courthouse in downtown Orlando with the flyers until the administrative order is lifted by Perry or a higher court.
“So what we may do is at lunch time at the restaurants downtown, just start distributing them in Orlando to let people know about this,” Schmidter said. “But the truth is, the only people we want to get to is the people walking in and out of the jury room. If we distribute it at the Altamonte Mall, I don’t think that will have much impact.”
But quitting isn’t an option, Schmidter added.
“All of us are more excited about getting something done,” he said, adding that he plans to starting distributing the flyers soon at the Seminole County Courthouse, which is not covered by Judge Perry’s administrative order.
“I made up my mind, I am going to go out there,” Schmidter said. “The judge comes through where he defines jury tampering in a way that does not meet the constitutional definition, that just by telling the jury that you can nullify the law is jury tampering. What the judge is doing now is saying ‘I don’t want someone on the jury like Mark who is going to say the guy is not guilty because it’s a terrible law.’ If the judge is trying to root out people like me or that think like me, he is using that as the jury tampering trump card — which doesn’t make any sense.”
Schmidter said he plans to raise this issue during the next meeting of the Libertarian group Campaign for Liberty, which meets on Feb. 17 at Legends on South Orange Avenue at 7 p.m.
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