“We the People” and the right to petition

Part of the “Sovereign Citizen” myth is that public officers have a duty to respond to your inquiries. Whether presented as a duty under the first amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances, or a claim that these people “work for us”, they invariably fail to impress the courts. Note that there are statutory requirements that the government addresses petitions for redress, such as FOIA requests or certain court filings and other enumerated instances. Recently, we have seen how defendants like Rodney Class, submit documents in which they ask the court questions. The court is under no obligation to respond to such filings, and in fact, the court should not respond to such filings in the interest of justice.

In We The People v US, US District Court of DC, Civil Action No. 04-1211, (2005) many plaintiffs sued the US, arguing amongst others, that the defendants had failed to respond to their inquiries and therefore had violated their first amendment rights to petition the government for redress of grievances.

The District Court Judge granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, because of a failure to state a claim. The plaintiffs had insisted that the right to petition for redress of grievances, included a duty on the part of the government to respond. Of course, no such right exists, certainly not under our Constitution.

The Court observed:

B. Discussion

The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” U.S. Const. Amend. I. Plaintiffs contend that they therefore have a constitutional right to a response to the petitions they have filed with the various defendants, and that defendants have committed constitutional torts against plaintiffs in failing to respond to their petitions. See Pl. Opposition to Def. Motion to Dismiss (“Pl. Opp.”) at 9-10. The Supreme Court, however, has held that “the First Amendment does not impose any affirmative obligation on the government to listen, to respond or, in this context, to recognize the association and bargain with it.” See Smith v. Ark. State Highway Employees, Local 1315, 441 U.S. 463, 465 (1979). Plaintiffs’ claims that the defendants are obligated to “properly” respond to plaintiffs’ petitions shall thus be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

The Court of Appeals agreed:

Ratified in 1791, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides in part that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging . . . the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Plaintiffs are citizens who petitioned various parts of the Legislative and Executive Branches for redress of a variety of grievances that plaintiffs asserted with respect to the Government’s tax, privacy, and war policies. Alleging that they did not receive an adequate response, plaintiffs sued to compel a response from the Government.

Plaintiffs contend that the First Amendment guarantees a citizen’s right to receive a government response to or official consideration of a petition for redress of grievances. Plaintiffs’ argument fails because, as the Supreme Court has held, the First Amendment does not encompass such a right. See Minn. State Bd. for Cmty. Colls. v. Knight, 465 U.S. 271, 283, 285, 104 S.Ct. 1058, 79 L.Ed.2d 299 (1984);Smith v. Arkansas State Highway Employees, 441 U.S. 463, 465, 99 S.Ct. 1826, 60 L.Ed.2d 360 (1979).

Source: We the People Foundation, Inc. v. US, 485 F. 3d 140 – Court of Appeals, Dist. of Columbia Circuit 2007

 

4 thoughts on ““We the People” and the right to petition

  1. Based on SCOTUS precedent. It is interesting. The Right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances is essentially a “Useless” right that serves no lawful purpose. Since the government has no obligation or duty to respond to citizen greivenesses, the right is “useless” because right only has “value” if and when the government responds. In fact, I would argue that this conclusion would actually lead to unlawful behavior. Since the inherent value of the Right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances is a “response” and since the government has no duty or obligation to provide that response, the right is “useless” and “valueless” and since there is no obligation or duty, any action to force a response to obtain that usefullness or value would be considered unlawful. The First Admendment allows people to have the Right and Congress can’t make any law against it but the right itself is “useless” because the government has no duty or obligation to respond to such a greivess.

  2. The First Amendment is probably misplaced in this case. The Right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances probably falls under the venue of 9th and 10th Amendments. This right SCOTUS has said is “Useless” because there is no duty or obligation to respond to any such greivances. The right itself may be useless or may not be useless depending upon the what government does. The First Amendment merely prevents the government from restricting that right (which may or may no be useless). The better argument to make might be that rights retained by the people under the 9th or 10 Amendments – Do such rights mandate a value or a useless purpose and must this value or purpose be evident in each exercise of such a right. In this case, the SCOTUS would have to answer NO. That Constitution does allow rights retained by the people that are useless and valueless. In this case the Right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances is a “Useless” and “Valueless” right retained under the 9th and 10th Amendments of the Constitution.

  3. The First Admendment allows people to have the Right and Congress can’t make any law against it but the right itself is “useless” because the government has no duty or obligation to respond to such a greivess.

    That’s only partially true. Your freedom to petition cannot be used against you to retaliate for sharing your opinion. You can lobby, you can influence, you can convince like minded people, however there is of course no right to be taken seriously.

  4. Jim -John, there is an easy rule how to determine which side is right or wrong on any given point:

    Just look which side Jim-John is on, the opposite side is right.

    Your failure score is impressive!

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