Captain Justice Responds to Government’s Motion to Ban the Word “Government”

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This excellent pleading has been making the rounds (I saw it here) over the last couple of days, but I couldn’t find a signed copy and so I haven’t posted it yet because of this ridiculous issue I have with verifying information. I was able to contact the author, who told me that yes, he had actually filed it. I asked him if he’d send me a copy of the pleading as it was filed, but either he has more important things to do (like maybe actually try cases) or has had enough publicity at this point. (He seemed a little shell-shocked, actually.) But this has been covered by a sufficient number of actual news outlets at this point that it seems pretty likely to be legit, so here it is.

It was prompted by the prosecution’s one-page and citation-free motion in limine asking the court to order defendant’s counsel “not to refer to the Assistant District Attorney General as ‘the Government’ during trial.” The prosecution had come to believe, apparently, that this reference was being “used in a derogatory way” and wished to put a stop to that. It provided a helpful list of references that it said it would consider acceptable, including references to the AG herself as “General R______,” something that for whatever reason I particularly loathe, whether or not it’s technically correct.

The defense attorney—whose last name is in fact “Justice”—responded this way on the merits:

The State of Tennessee offers precisely zero legal authority for its rather nitpicky position, and the defense can find none. The Plaintiff has failed to carry its burden on this motion. Moreover, the Plaintiff’s proposed ban on speech would violate the First Amendment.

That was probably enough to win (and he did win). But he drove the point home with the kind of thing that you probably only get away with if it’s this good:

Should this Court disagree, and feel inclined to let the parties basically pick their own designations and ban words, then the defense has a few additional suggestions…. First, the Defendant no longer wants to be called “the Defendant.” This rather archaic term of art obviously has a fairly negative connotation…. At trial, Mr. P. hereby demands to be addressed only by his full name, preceded by the title “Mister.”

Alternatively, he may be called simply “the Citizen Accused.” This latter title sounds more respectable than the criminal “Defendant.” The designation “That innocent man” would also be acceptable.

Moreover, defense counsel does not wish to be referred to as a “lawyer,” or a “defense attorney.” Those terms are substantially more prejudicial than probative. See Tenn. R. Evid. 403. Rather, counsel for the Citizen Accused should be referred to primarily as the “Defender of the Innocent.” This title seems particularly appropriate, because every Citizen Accused is presumed innocent.

Alternatively, counsel would also accept the designation “Guardian of the Realm.”

Further, the Citizen Accused humbly requests an appropriate military title for his own representative, to match that of the opposing counsel. Whenever addressed by name, the name “Captain Justice” will be appropriate. While less impressive than “General,” still, the more humble term seems suitable. After all, the Captain represents only a Citizen Accused, whereas the General represents an entire State.

Along these same lines, even the term “defense” does not sound very likeable. The whole idea of being defensive comes across to most people as suspicious. So to prevent the jury from being unfairly misled by this ancient English terminology, the opposition to the Plaintiff hereby names itself “the Resistance.”

* * *

WHEREFORE, Captain Justice, Guardian of the Realm and Leader of the Resistance, primarily asks that the Court deny the State’s motion, as lacking legal basis. Alternatively, the Citizen Accused moves for an order in limine modifying the speech code as aforementioned, and requiring any other euphemisms and feel-good terms as the Court finds appropriate.

 You don’t get many chances to do this kind of thing, so it is nice to see someone hit it out of the park.