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Ask Our Lawyer - March 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Rules That Everyone Has Free Speech--some Just Have More Free Speech than Others (those with big bucks)

In one fell swoop, the Supremes have eliminated PACs and the need for those organizations that ABATE and the MRF has fed through the years with our hard-earned contributions. The good news from the 183 page opinion (that has to be close to a record) is that ABATE and the MRF no longer has to launder its members’ hard-earned political change through PACs. The logic is that spending, under the law, is considered a form of speech, so political spending equals political speech, and therefore is covered under the first amendment. Now we can give the money directly, except for ABATE organizations organized under IRS §501(C)(3). The Supreme Court has cut out the need for a middleman. With this ruling, organizations can support candidates directly as long as the support of that candidate is not their primary purpose. In other words, ABATE organizations are free to support directly candidates that are consistent with the aims of ABATE.

Now here’s for the maybe bad news. Remember what I previously said about spending and speech? This freedom also applies to corporations, and they have deeper pockets to draw from than ABATE. While this facilitates the process for all organizations and corporations to get involved in the political arena, it also tilts the ‘equal’ playing field in a not-so-equal slant favoring ‘we the corporate’ instead of ‘we the people.’ Corporations can now use their general funds for politically-related contributions, thus creating a laughable disparity between available corporate dollars and individual contributions. It is feared that this will inevitably lead to corporations having the ability to reward its valued politicians, and punish those in question, resulting in undue influence over political elections. Remember the old adage that he has the gold makes the rules.

A corporation obtains the right to free speech due to the fact that legally it is considered to be its own entity, or person. It seems unlikely that the founding fathers meant for corporations to be included in their government of the people, for the people, by the people, but to some that remains unclear. So the real problem at hand might be our classification of a corporation. Are we really content with granting the same rights to a corporation that are granted to our children, our neighbors, or us? Corporate funds may be taxed twice, but does that necessarily mean they should count double? After this decision, that is exactly what is going to happen, unless we the people are smart enough to see through the corporate-sponsored infomercials and start investigating the facts for ourselves. Only time will tell.

Lobbying Fees-free Speech Cracked Again

It’s the Illinois General Assembly this time, but Ohio and Indiana could be next

ABATE LEGAL is involved in a class action lawsuit against the Illinois Secretary of State regarding lobbyist fees. In this case, the General Assembly has jacked the rates up so significantly that they are an impediment to free speech. Remember, the power to tax is the power to destroy. Members of ABATE have a 1st Amendment right to peacefully assemble (e.g., join ABATE), to petition the government (communicate with elected officials) for a redress of grievances (changes in the law that we either oppose or support). What the Illinois General Assembly has done by requiring that ABATE register and report as a lobbying organization and pay thousands of dollars to exercise our right to communicate with elected officials, is to tax the exercise of our constitutional right to free speech. These rights are not privileges that can be sold to organizations that can afford to pay for those rights. Rather, such rights can never be denied – and it is the government's duty to protect those rights instead of trying to limit them. We are monitoring this situation in Ohio and Indiana to insure that the right to free speech does not come up for sale. Stay tuned on this one!

Pick-up Pick-up

Q. What do you do with an old pick up truck that has been left on your property and the owner is in jail? I want to do the right thing regarding his property.

From long time ABATE member John "Bake" Baker.

A. Like it or not you may have responsibilities regarding safeguarding the property. You cannot just haul it off to the dump or salvage yard. Without getting into the lawyer stuff on details, you have certain obligations to reasonably safeguard the property while you remove it. I would write Mr. Incarcerated a letter inviting him or his representative to remove the truck from your property and advising him of the plans for the truck if he fails to respond. While 10 days may be too quick to expect a removal, it is not too soon for a response from him acknowledging your request and a plan from him for removal. Keep a copy of the letter and the proof of receipt. Send a copy to his nearest relative. If no response is forthcoming, call your local salvage yard and explain to them the situation. In most instances they will tow the truck to their salvage yard. Give them a copy of the letter you sent to the owner. They will have certain lien storage rights regarding the truck. If the owner fails to claim the vehicle, the salvage yard can proceed to make its claim for storage. You are then off the hook.

Have Gun Will Travel

Police Have No Right to Retain Evidence Longer That Is Needed in the Case

Q. Why is the State’s Attorney so reluctant to reunite me with my firearm that was taken from my home? I inadvertently learned that they had my gun when I reviewed the police report of a break-in of my house. I suspect they are trying to keep this very pricey weapon for their own use. I have made numerous calls to the office of the State’s Attorney, but I receive no return calls. They are not responding.

Jack and Gina- long time ABATE members.

A. We will help you with a letter setting forth your rights as a citizen and taking the position that the gun should be returned immediately since the State’s Attorney has concluded the handling of the underlying criminal matter. Once the evidence has been released and the case is concluded, you have an absolute right to your property. Let me know how they respond.

Follow-up: Jack and Gina wrote with some additional information.

After mailing the letters as you instructed the situation has progressed. Before the letters we got zero cooperation. Today Gina got 19 phone calls from the police. Anyway, the letter and phone calls do indicate Gina can pick up her gun. She will do so soon weather permitting. Thank you. We will let you know when she has it back. This looks like it is going to be another one in the win column for Rod Taylor and A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services.

P.S. The gun is back home!

Places to Ride Before You Die

This is the second in an occasional series of stories about places you don't have to ride to before you die, but that you will never forget.

How about to the burial site of Stonewall Jackson's arm or General Dan's leg?

Many of us pay proper respects to our Viet Nam veterans each year in the spring with a RIDE TO THE WALL, and for all of the obvious reasons this is absolutely a place to ride to before you die. I have ridden to a lot of places in this country, many of them forgettable, but I guarantee you will never forget the following places.

While you are in the Shenandoah Valley or the Rappahannock and Potomac River basins, you should check out Dan Sickles’s amputated leg – deboned and all, with a .54 caliber minnie ball still stuck in the center of the femur. Yep, that is what I said, and that is a sight that you don't see often. Gen. Dan was a Union general at Gettysburg, and famous for getting away with murder in front of the White House – Texas style. He blasted his wife’s lover (who happened to be Francis Scott Key's grandson) with a Navy Colt revolver. He must have been pretty upset with Key as he shot him twice, once to down him and the other in the gut to finish him off. He was so close to the White House that the president could have seen him do it. In the murder trial, General Dan maintained that the affair made him crazy. It worked, as the jury acquitted him in what was one of this nation's first attempts at asserting an insanity defense. Years later, he proved the insanity defense was correct as he was still crazy on the second day of the battle of Gettysburg when he advanced his division out in front of the Union line without orders and proceeded to get the hell kicked out of his troops in the infamous Peach Orchard debacle. Poetic justice occurred when he took a .54 caliber minnie ball in his left upper thigh. To stave off gangrene, army bone surgeons sawed it off just below the hip joint. He gave his amputated leg to the Smithsonian where he visited it on every July 2, the anniversary of his amputation. (I told you he was crazy.) As an aside, I have often wondered how you start out a letter to the Smithsonian offering a gift like that. I have threatened to call the Smithsonian to see if they still have the letter. If so, I will let you know. In any event, the Smithsonian must have gotten tired of keeping the leg as they have given it to the Museum of Health and Medicine in D.C. You can go there and pay your respects or at least ponder how silly the whole matter the whole Sickles matter really is. They say his wife was one good-looking woman, or something, which must be true, because he did take her back.

You might also want to head south to Chancellorsville, Va. – a great area to ride through. This is the site of one of Lee's greatest victories, but Stonewall gets most of the credit for winning that battle. He outflanked the yankees on the right and wrapped up them up all the way back to D.C., even though they were outnumbered 2 to 1. Unfortunately for Jackson, his men confused him for the enemy when they blasted him and his horse, Little Sorrel. Stonewall took it the upper arm. The bone surgeons did their thing again by cutting the arm off just below the shoulder. Jackson was doing fine until the pneumonia set in, and lasted long enough for Mrs. Stonewall to come from Lexington to pay her last respects. They buried the arm nearby in a wooden coffin. Years later some top notch Marine colonel disputed the local lore as to the final resting place for the “left arm” of Stonewall. He could not imagine that they would not have buried all of Jackson all in one place. Remember what Lee said about the incident “ Jackson may have lost his left arm, but I have lost my right.” And apparently his left arm was "lost." In any event, the Marine dug up the site and low and behold, they found the final resting place of – guess what? – Jackson's left arm. The Marine then reburied the arm in a metal case in the same final resting place. You can see the site today but you have to ask for directions. It seems they do not publicize the location too much. The rest of him is buried in Lexington Va., also a great place to ride as it is in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.

P.S. Little Sorrel is stuffed and is in the basement of the Virginia Military Academy in Lexington. Last time I was there they had to put a glass in front of her as some were plucking hairs off of her coat – no doubt yankees. Before that you could pet her – I did. If you are from the midwest, ride back home on U.S. 60. You will never forget it.

Ride Safe and Free,
Rod Taylor
ABATE Legal Services

Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery and expenses as approved by client, consistent with and conforming to applicable state law. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. And, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to your motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number.

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to ASK OUR LAWYER, at rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2010, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services