From the August 2001 Idaho Observer:
Florida man foils bankruptcy court deposition attempt
By The Idaho Observer
Dave Johnston, 53, is a resolutely Christian Florida man who believes that all men and women have the right to speak -- or not speak -- to anyone; that all men and women have the right to contract or not contract with anyone and; that all men and women have the right to take an oath or not take an oath.
Those are pretty fundamental, God-given concepts that cannot be effectively argued to the contrary.
Johnston claims that, If you are placed in a situation in which you do not want to testify or it would not be in your best interest to do so, you may want to invoke the rights the Creator gave you.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, officers of the court (attorneys, judges, clerks, etc.) have an obligation to protect and defend your rights, unless you waive your rights, Johnston stressed.
This story begins two years ago when Johnston resigned as administrator of a fairly large private trust organization in Florida. Soon after his resignation the new trust organization owner/trustee allegedly stole a very large amount of money from the trust, forcing the trust into bankruptcy.
According to Johnston, the attorneys involved in this matter attempted to utilize the bankruptcy in an effort to obtain information about him. Though Johnston filed paperwork with the court to quash all requests by the court, he was ordered to attend a deposition May 9, 2001. I did not want to answer any questions if possible so I had to come up with some good reasons why I could not answer their questions, Johnston explained.
Johnston started making calls to friends who dabble in the law and came up with several thoughts as to how to proceed. One call in particular was to a friend who is now involved with a ministry by the name of Liberty418. He proceeded to tell me he personally had endured similar situations and sent me a set of his personal notes. Johnston's friend told him this information had been successfully utilized in some dozen or so similar events with which he was familiar.
I read the notes and decided to utilize this power packed information as my personal notes for the May 9, 2001 deposition, which came all too soon for me, Johnston remembers.
On the day of the deposition, Johnston walked into a room full of attorneys in $1,000 suits who were ready to go to work. Also present was a former co-worker whose purpose was to help the attorneys get as much information from Johnston as possible. It did not look good for the home team and I got a bad case of butterflies which I somehow managed to conceal from the people in the room, Johnston remembers.
As the proceeding began, Johnston recalls that he sat down, waited and, after introductions and small talk from opposing counsel, the reporter stated; 'Raise your right hand, please.'
Why ? Johnston asked and then he explained how it is against my deeply held religious beliefs to be sworn in or to take an oath.
The reporter immediately, as if he had come across people like Johnston before, stated, Well, you can affirm and I won't say sworn.
To this statement Johnston immediately replied, That's for the same reason I can't swear or take an oath or swear in. I can't affirm.
Johnston recalls feeling as if the air in the room suddenly became thick and extremely tense. The lead attorney regained his composure and explained that affirmation was necessary and that it was simply confirming my desire to tell the truth. He even tried to convince me that I did not have to take an oath to which I simply told him, 'an affirmation is the same as an oath.'
The attorney again expressed several reasons why Johnston should affirm and once again asked him to affirm to tell the truth and, again, Johnston indicated that he could not do so.
I proceeded to enter my name (full Christian) into the record, spelling the name in upper and lower case and then stated; 'My appearance today is not evidence as to my consent or permission to be asked any questions or give any answers.
Johnston's resistance prompted another round of demands of him to take an oath or affirm, to which he finally stated, Are you going to ask me to perform any kind of act that would directly violate my religious beliefs in any way, shape or form? I mean, would you be held personally liable, you know, under color of law, to Amendment I of the Constitution and Article I, section 3 of the Florida Constitution?
The attorney assured Johnston he would ask nothing that would in any way infringe on his rights. Johnston then proceeded onto the next point that was covered in his notes.
Johnston explained to the attorneys that it was his understanding that, as officers of the court, they have an obligation to Amendment V of the Constitution and also the Florida Constitution to protect the rights of individuals from being a witness against themselves. Johnston then asked the attorneys, are you asking me to be a witness against myself?
After a short dissertation by the attorney who attempted to intimidate Johnston with legal sanctions for his improper invocation of rights he asked, Can anything that I say here today be used by anyone at anytime in some currently unknown criminal or civil proceeding?
According to Johnston, the attorney was starting to get really annoyed by now and snapped; What is said in this examination can be used for any lawful purpose.
Johnston recalls being amazed that he was somehow able to keep his cool even though the attorneys were getting more adversarial. He calmly stuck to his program, referred to the next section of his notes and asked, If I choose to answer any questions here today, can you grant me full immunity from all possible sources for any and all litigation on any proceedings that you don't even know yet?
The attorney responded, I don't have the personal power to grant you immunity.
Johnston then reminded the attorney of his obligation, as an officer of the court, to protect his constitutional rights or be subject to liability for failure to do so.
The attorney calmed down and assured Johnston that he would not violate any of his rights and also indicated that he did not have the power to grant immunity, either civil or criminal.
It was at that point Johnston began to realize they had a real problem with him as long as he steadfastly claimed rights and refused to back up one step.
After a short recess, the attorneys seemed rejuvenated and started again to explain that Johnston knew the examination had been scheduled and that was why he appeared -- as scheduled. The attorneys made every imaginable effort to get him to answer questions and suggested Johnston secure counsel of his own.
Once again Johnston asked, more emphatically this time, Can you issue me full immunity from anything that I say here today? and suggested that the proceeding was in fact a fishing expedition and he would not incriminate himself by answering questions. Johnston also said, Any statement I made would be true, but I am not going to chance incriminating myself until I have full immunity from prosecution.
The attorney again revisited the court ordered examination issue and stated they were not agents of the state and assured Johnston they were not looking for criminal activity. The attorney emphasized that he was not able to grant immunity.
At that point it was obvious the proceeding was over even though the attorney made several more attempts to get me to talk with them. I again re-stated the demand for immunity which, of course, the attorney was unable to guarantee, said Johnston.
The proceeding took a few more interesting twists and turns and the attorney tried several more times to coerce Johnston into answering his questions, however it was obvious to Johnston they knew they had been cut off at the pass.
The attorney took one last recess and asked a few last questions in an obvious attempt to set the record for possible future court action. The attorney asked Johnston, Where do you reside? to which Johnston simply said; I am not going to answer any questions.
The attorney then stated. It is your right to invoke the Fifth Amendment where you feel it is appropriate; it is your right to counsel. There are certainly questions which in no way would invoke the Fifth Amendment rights. If you refuse to answer that type of question, we will then be in a position to have to ask the Court to compel you to answer. And if you fail to answer the Court, you could be held in contempt by the Court.
As Johnston got up to leave he asked one last question of his own: Are you to hold me here against my will?
The attorney used several sentences to say, No, so Johnston got up and left.
Upon returning home, I proceeded to generate written confirmation of my meeting, date, time, place and the general issues raised. I sent this communication to opposing counsel by memo and to the Bankruptcy Court under notice. I did not want opposing counsel to tell the court that I failed to appear, Johnston explained.
Since that time, Johnston has had no further problems with the bankruptcy court.
As a result, he believes that, when and if he is ever called upon to testify in court, he will successfully be able to stand firm on his rights. It is now obvious to me that my rights include, but are not limited to; (a) right not to take an oath or affirm. b) right not to speak with anyone I choose not to speak with (c) right not to contract with anyone I don't want to contract with (d) right not to become a witness against myself, Johnston said.
Johnston is convinced that, no attorney, law firm or court could possibly grant full immunity for all civil or criminal acts or omissions from any and all sources. I have asked my friends at Liberty418 to post the Witness Reservation of Rights to their web site and provide all of my information to you free of charge, Johnston said.
Johnston urges people to visit the website at: www.Liberty418.com From there they are encouraged to click on the FREE DOWNLOAD button on the site where they will find his Witness Reservation of Rights outline; his Notice to the Court and the entire May 9, 2001 transcript of the attempted deposition.
You will also find many interesting programs at the Liberty418.com website and they have assured me that many new programs and FREE downloads will be added periodically to their website.
Thanks for your attention and I pray all can benefit through my trials and tribulations of this event, Johnston concluded.
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