by David Tulis, Noogaradio 96.9 FM
(Nov. 7, 2021) — FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Investigative reporter David Tulis of 96.9 FM was dragged from a conference room table to a gurney and shoved into an ambulance, where he was charged with criminal trespass for insisting on his right to report on the doings of the secretive Tennessee judicial conference.
His midstate bureau chief, Christopher Sapp, was also arrested — but was not cuffed nor given reward of a criminal complaint to Williamson County, Tenn., sessions court. Mr. Sapp says he demanded Franklin city police officers cuff and arrest him, to give him proof of judicial abuse, but they refused.
The Saturday uproar capped a three-day policymaking and educational event for city court judges statewide. All judges in Tennessee are members of the conference, and are required to attend the events secret 24,782 days, since 1953, when the general assembly created the conference.
Event organizers refused to start a second of three sessions on “sovereign citizens” until the reporters were kicked out. Each had slipped in and taken a seat quietly, ready to run laptops and pens, when they were accosted.
“I’m not trespassing. I’m here as a member of the press,” said Tulis. “This is a public function, paid for by taxpayers. I have a right to be here. I’m not leaving.” Tulis refused to stand up when ordered to do so by an officer, grabbing his wrists with metal, saying he has the “strength to report the news — owww, that hurts — I have strength for all kinds of things, but I don’t have strength” to cooperate in an unlawful arrest.
The reporters preceded their assertive acts with administrative filings to chief justice Roger Page, who personally oversees the AOC — the administrator of the courts. Tulis filed an 8-page analysis, and Sapp filed a 9-page demand under the open meetings act that he “not be met with resistance or official oppression under color of law” in joining the meeting, a filing with 33 footnotes.
They were backstopped by legal reformer John Gentry, who made arrangements with U.S. district court clerk, Lynda Motes Hill, to file a petition for an emergency Saturday hearing for a petition for writ of habeas corpus. That emergency remedy brings a jailed person instantly before a judge to determine what cause is behind his jailing. Mr. Gentry is an independent candidate for governor promising to restore the rights of the people to address the government and remonstrate for grievances.
“Those expense reports out there” in the lobby, Mr. Gentry said, “clearly evidence that the taxpayer is paying for secret proceedings of our judiciary to go in there and mock the people with ‘sovereign citizen bingo.’ I am appalled — I am offended — as a citizen of this state.”
Tulis warned officers that he suffered from a hernia, and they scrupled not to drag him away sprawling by arm and leg, but called EMTs to rope him into a gurney and put him into an ambulance. Inside, he signed a citation, was freed from police custody on condition he quit hotel premises.
“We came to the municipal judicial conference to monitor what was going on,” Mr. Sapp says, “which is our constitutional right under article 1 section 19 of the Tennessee constitution — gives us freedom of the press. We have the right to attend this, but we were denied that right by the Tennessee judiciary. They would not continue with the conference as long as we were in there. As a matter of fact, they had the Embassy Suites hotel staff actually ‘trespass’ us in circumvention of the open meetings act, which is completely an abomination to state law.”
Says Mr. Sapp, “The judiciary is thumbing its nose at the state legislature and the will of the people to conduct their conclaves in secret — and that’s exactly what’s going on. Make no bones about it. This will be something that needs to be litigated.”
The reporters say the judicial conference is statutorily created, funded by taxpayers and litigation taxes, is compulsory for all judges, organized by the court system, is the court system in practice, touches the operation of law and justice, influences or controls public policy, meddles in creation of legislation and lobbying.
State law says “the formation of public policy and decisions is public business and shall not be conducted in secret” T.C.A. § 8-44-101. State law also says “The conference shall meet annually for the consideration of any and all matters pertaining to the discharge of the official duties and obligations of its several members, to the end that there shall be a more prompt and efficient administration of justice in the courts of this state” [emphasis added] T.C.A. § 17-3-104
David Tulis hosts a talk show weekdays 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on NoogaRadio 96.9 FM, covering local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice; all discussions about law and practices favoring a free people are opinion and educational; if you want legal advice consult a licensed attorney.