The Brattleboro Indictment Resolution: Is it legal nonsense?

Crossposted at Orange Satan.

On Tuesday March 4 voters in Brattleboro, VT will vote on a non-binding resolution calling for the following:

“Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution, and publish said indictment for consideration by other municipalities? And shall it be the law of the Town of Brattleboro that the Brattleboro Police, pursuant to the above-mentioned indictments, arrest and detain George Bush and Richard Cheney in Brattleboro if they are not duly impeached, and extradite them to other authorities that may reasonably contend to prosecute them.”

According to the organizers the resolution a largely symbolic gesture. One organizer wrote, “it was born simply out of the devastating realization that our Constitution and entire system of government were – and still are – under assault, and that such extraordinary circumstances sometimes call for extraordinary measures.” Now organizers claim the initiative now has real legal teeth. How legal is it?

Read below the fold.

Organizers claim the resolution, although symbolic, can have legal teeth provided it’s taken to the next level. The organizers I know are seeking legal help from Francis Boyle and Connecticut Green Party candidate Harold Burbank. Here’s their legal argument:

” Under a legal provision known as “Common Law Application,” municipalities have indisputable legal standing to apply laws against any alleged criminal who violates Federal law – which encompasses violating treaties, being party to war crimes, or engaging in any other criminal activities. We have also been assured that the language in the resolution is well suited for implementing this provision.

In short, we have the legal justification to call for a legal remedy, because the government cannot nullify the rights invested in its citizens to invoke Federal or international criminal law. Put another way, any town has the right to pass laws to address war crimes, or any other Federal crimes, and to indict the people alleged to have committed them.”

I have a hard time believing anything Francis Boyle advocates for and I’ve never heard of Harold Burbank until now. The fact he’s a Green Party candidate for Congress doesn’t help either. But the question I have to all of you is this:

How much legal standing does this resolution have as organizers have put forth?

(davidseth, are you out there?)

For any of you with extensive legal background, I’d like to hear what you have to say. I don’t think George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will ever be brought up on war crime charges. However, I’d like to see citizen activists efforts somewhere somehow make an impact. How else should we go about doing this? How can we still hold them accountable for assaulting our Constitution and system of government?

Let’s hear it.


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    • ctrenta on March 2, 2008 at 12:35 am
  1. of Brattleboro they might have a problem. Otherwise, not much to this.

    One question: exactly to whom should the Town of Brattleboro extradite these felons? The (non-binding) resolution says,

    extradite them to other authorities that may reasonably contend to prosecute them.

    Who are we talking about here? The Feds? The Hague?  Probably too vague to pass Constitutional muster.

    The resolution also suggests some interesting 10th Amendment issues related to just which unspecified rights are still reserved to the states and/or the people.

    But again, hypothetical legal issues aside, as a practical matter this resolution can’t really be taken too seriously – except, of course, as a fine statement of principles with which I, for one, wholly concur.

    • ctrenta on March 2, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Here’s the diary I quoted from.

    Let me know what you all think.

  2. I noticed my name in this essay.  How I managed to do that at El Point in Tulum, QR, Mexico, will be an essay when I return in mid-March.

    I still think the resolution is bull.  But I love love love that the locals in Brattleboro, People’s Republic of Vermont have found a way to express their collective outrage.  And I’m sure that this resolution will get more ink, right or wrong, legal or not, than anything else short of impeachment.

    Meanwhile, be well.  That I’m not writing or commenting does not mean anything more than that Internet from here is a huge hassle.  At this moment, the wireless I’m using is coming through the walls.  I don’t know from where.

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