In Praise of Andy Mel
We know, now, that government can never be constrained in either theory or practice but must be eliminated altogether from civilized society; but I can confirm the "in practice" bit of that due in part to the dogged determination, and ultimate failure, to prove the opposite by one of the most remarkable men I've been privileged to know: Andrew Melechinsky.
Andy led a small group of curmudgeons in North Central Connnecticut in the 1970s and 80s, called "Constitutional Revival." He published a newsletter, and an annotated edition of the US Constitution--of which a dog-eared copy lies on my desk as I write--and lectured upon it wherever he could get an invitation. Everything I know about that document, I learned at his feet. He fulfilled his life's mission to demonstrate in its favor at every law school in the country; quite often, the students (never the faculty!) invited him inside to present his views and take questions. He never got involved in the anarchist-minarchist debate, preferring to say just that in practice we do actually live in a constitutionally limited republic, and he was going to try to see to it that government lived within that limit. If, today, there are some lawyers in their 40s who defy government arrogance on constitutional grounds, their clients may have Andrew Melechinsky to thank.
Once, I was accused of using a radar detector. Prepped by Andy, I hid it while the cop strutted over, and when he told me to produce it, I asked, "Is that an order, Officer, or a request?" and of course he barked that it was an order. He made his notes and said to "sign here" but, again forewarned, I said I always take legal advice before signing things, so I'd rather not, if he didn't mind. We each went on our way.
Later my court date came and, further prepped by Andrew, I stood at the back when the judge asked me to plead and said "I refuse to enter a plea, for you have no jurisdiction!" "Oh, but your Honor," said the officious little prosecutor, "Mr. Davies has signed the ticket right here, to grant this court jurisdiction!" and hurriedly made to produce it. His expression, when he found my John Hancock missing, provided me with one of life's most delicious moments.
Over my objection that I had not given him my power of attorney, the judge entered a Not Guilty plea anyway, but I won the case by showing that the only evidence they had (the detector) had been produced by compulsion, contrary to my rights under Amendment 5--which they persisted in calling my "Miranda rights"--and the eye of my imagination can clearly see the judge raising to his lips a bottle of the Pink Stuff afterwards. A few years later, Connecticut repealed its law against government-spy detectors, in part perhaps because my case showed it was unenforceable. All thanks to Andy Mel.
During the 1990 Federal tax trial of Jim Lewis (David Bergland's 1984 running mate) in New Haven, Andrew joined the spectators and at one point rose to "remonstrate" with the judge. He took the view that since no part of Article III delegated to the Judicial Branch the power to prohibit public remonstration in court, the public still had it. The judge said "Mr. Melechinsky, haven't you and I had this conversation before?" and he replied with his wry grin, "I believe we have, your Honor" and was led from the courtroom by a pair of marshals. However, unlike every other such protester including Gandhi, Andrew went limp at that point. They had to lift him from his seat and drag him to the door while his every muscle was relaxed. That was really hard for them, and provided a perfect, literal example of "passive resistance."
Andrew, too, declined to pay the Federal Income Tax, having found no law that obliged him to do so, and did what he peacefully could to obstruct the monstrous power of the IRS--and this was in the days before Irwin Schiff had done his best work. It was also prior to the writing of 26 USC 6334(a)(13) and (e) and so, eventually, the IRS stole his house--perhaps the last time that ever happened. When removing him from the premises, the thugs in Ninja suits found Andy limp again, but had anticipated that by bringing a wheelchair. The newspapers therefore had to show a photo of the Feds wheeling away from his confiscated home a victim in a wheelchair. A picture worth a thousand words.
He was a competent author, and self-published a short book about the life and 1983 death of one Gordon Kahl: Death of a Patriot. Kahl was another i-tax non-volunteer, but was hounded by those desiring his money and submission. Things came to an ugly head in the home of a friend in Arkansas, when Federal thugs surrounded the ranch and, when Kahl refused to emerge, raked it with gunfire. He fired back, but the only attacker killed was shot in the back, evidently by "friendly fire." Enraged, his comrades climbed on the roof, poured gasoline down the chimney, set fire to the house and burned Gordon to death. When the ashes had cooled, they went about viciously dismembering his body by hacking off hands and feet, as shown by Andrew's research and copy of a morgue sketch. An eerie foreshadowing of Waco, ten years later.
Andrew's evening years were marred, sadly, by the loss of a leg to gangrene, and he died shortly afterwards. He will be long remembered as a classic example of American backbone.