To the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Some Pigs are More Equal Than Others

I've written before on my opposition to proposed federal legislation that would prevent judges from compelling reporters to reveal their sources or produce certain documents. Well, that legislation passed the House Judiciary Committee today by voice vote. It's not that that I think people should go to jail for refusing to testify or produce information, it's that I don't believe in special rights. Reporters shouldn't have legal rights that other citizens don't have. If Rob tells me about his favorite tranny prostitute I can be compelled by a judge to reveal that information. But if he tells a reporter, the reporter should have the right to remain silent? That's like totally unfair and stuff. Previous posts in defense of jailing reporters here, here, and here. For the record I take a Rothbardian position on the subject of forced testimony overall. From For a New Liberty:
compelling testimony from anyone for any reason is forced labor—and, furthermore, is akin to kidnapping, since the person is forced to appear at the hearing or trial and is then forced to perform the labor of giving testimony. The problem is not only the recent immunity laws; the problem is to eliminate all coerced testimony, including the universal subpoenaing of witnesses to a crime, and then forcing them to testify. In the case of witnesses, there is no question whatever of their being guilty of a crime, so the use of compul­sion against them—a use that no one has questioned until now—has even less justification than compelling testimony from accused criminals.

In fact, the entire power to subpoena should be abolished, because the subpoena power compels attendance at a trial. Even the accused crimi­nal or tortfeasor should not be forced to attend his own trial, since he has not yet been convicted. If he is indeed—according to the excellent and libertarian principle of Anglo-Saxon law—innocent until proved guilty, then the courts have no right to compel the defendant to attend his trial. For remember, the only exemption to the Thirteenth Amend­ment's prohibition of involuntary servitude is "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted"; an accused party has not yet been convicted. The most the court should be able to do, then, is to notify the defendant that he is going to be tried, and invite him or his lawyer to attend; otherwise, if they choose not to, the trial will proceed in absentia. Then, of course, the defendant will not enjoy the best presentation of his case.

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