The Nacogdoches Sentinel tells the quixotic story of a man who's completely fed up with this onerous trend ("A battle for personal liberty," Nov. 30):
The rest of the story is worth a read. I doubt Mr. Craig's claims will prevail, and his isn't a sophisticated critique, but I think it's a common one that represents a growing, justified resentment against "Big Government" - one that sometimes has been manipulated to gain votes by politicians who, once in power, never actually reduced government's scope.
A local business owner with no formal legal training, Craig has studied the law on his own for 15 years, preparing arguments for his case, a rebellion against tyranny and injustice that began earlier this month in municipal court.
At 44, Craig has no driver's license, but still drives a blue 1991 Ford Crown Victoria, which has no license plates, no registration, no insurance and a broken brake light. For these reasons, Nacogdoches police officers issued Craig ordinary citations in December 2007 and again in January of this year.
But Craig's case is anything but ordinary. Instead of paying his tickets — about $910 in fines for the first one — Craig filed a lengthy affidavit in municipal court denying that any crime had been committed and challenging the standing of the court to prosecute him. There, and in subsequent filings, all researched and authored on his own, Craig cited legal sources like the Magna Carta, the state constitutions of Texas and Arizona and countless subsections of state law and administrative code, all of which he believes supports his case.
Craig objects to nearly every facet of the justice system, from the lack of court reporters in the municipal court, to summonses delivered by mail instead of by hand, to judges whose salaries are paid by the city — an unconscionable conflict of interest, Craig says. But Craig's case really hinges on his worry that government has strayed too far from its original purpose, assuming powers it was never supposed to exact over citizens of a free republic.
"I am trying to be left alone," Craig said. "I want the right to travel from place to place without harassment. I want the right to use my property for its intended purpose without harassment. I want my right to not have to pay fees to anyone for the right to use my property. It's really that simple. We can't be a nation of free people if we're not really free."
Though Craig's legal point is disputable, he has a valid political one: A whopping 79% of respondents to a Dallas News online poll last spring thought petty municipal ordinances were turning Dallas into a "nanny state." Or take a look at the bills filed in the House and Senate at the Texas Legislature and you'll notice a striking trend: Many bills propose creating new crimes, new penalties, or increasing old penalties (the euphemism for which is "enhancement"), but search high and low and you'll seldom see anyone repealing useless, petty laws or ratcheting down penalties when increasing them didn't have the desired effect.
For now Craig's quixotic, pro se rebellion is just an oddity and I mention it not to back the legal merits so much as to remark upon its political and cultural implications. I suspect his complaints resonate with a significant number of people, even if most folks would never go to such extremes to lodge a protest.