An open letter to Marc Stevens on why his ” No-State Project” show probably does more harm than good.
I am, like you, a liberty lover and liberty media activist. I’m the co-host of two podcasts syndicated on The Liberty Radio Network as is your own “No-State Project.” My podcasts are “Freedom Feens” and “Anarchy Gumbo.” I also directed the film Guns and Weed: The Road to Freedom.
You and I have never spoken, but we have a lot of the same friends.
I am, like you, a fan of civil disobedience. I believe flexing rights with cops is good, and I believe it has its place with judges. I have respect for people who know the dangers, weigh the options and choose to do that on their own. But advising your “clients” (your word, not mine), who just want to stay out of jail, to go piss off the judge, especially in felony cases, is not helping anyone’s personal liberty. It’s doing quite the opposite.
I know that on your website you state that you are not an attorney (though you do charge $100 an hour for phone consultations). But people calling in on your show may not know that you are not an attorney, as you seem to present yourself as an attorney. Therefore people may place their trust in you and act upon your advice based upon a mistaken understanding.
I’ve listened to your show before, and I listened to your talk with Jillian the other day. (Local copy of MP3 here.) I know Jillian. I posted some of her bail when she was busted in Texas recently. I speak with her frequently. The Freedom Feens podcast has also, for several month, given free ad time for her confectionery company on our Sunday live show, ad time that we also sell to other people. In short, she’s a friend, and I care about her.
I was pretty appalled by some of your advice to her. Some of your advice might make sense to someone who was willing to grandstand in court to make a point, didn’t mind doing some jail time, didn’t have a kid, had money for a lawyer as a backup if needed, and was only facing misdemeanor charges in their home town. It was not helpful advice for a young mother with no money trying to stay out of prison and facing two drug felonies outside her home state. Particularly when the charges are pending in Texas, and after Jillian told you that the judge already hates her.
By the end of your talk with Jillian, she was saying “That makes sense!” and cheerfully saying “Thank you!” In short, she sounded like she thought you were the solution she was looking for. She’s smart, but you confidently present yourself as having some basis for being able to give advice.
You even said to Jillian on the show “We’re very confident of the material on this show.”
I forwarded the episode to a lawyer friend for his opinion. This guy, Randy England:
Randy is a former prosecutor and currently a privately practicing attorney, with decades of criminal law experience, a lot of it with drug charges. He’s also a philosophical anarchist. He was taken aback by your advice. He said, “I believe that required licensing for anything is tyrannical. But this guy Marc Stevens is a poster child for everyone who believes that required licensing for lawyers is a good thing.”
Randy said that in most states, if Jillian retains a criminal defense lawyer, or even the public defender, she’s unlikely to get jail time, since it’s her first felony and drug possession offense. He said if Jillian takes your advice, acting pro se, and challenges the judge by asking “Where do you derive your authority?” and “Do you honestly think I can get a fair trial here?”, Jillian will almost certainly end up in a cage in Texas for a long time.
Yet your “knowledge” of the law is such, Marc, that you sought Jillian out, you contacted her, and offered to her: “I can help with court stuff.”
That sort of “ambulance chasing” would be considered unethical for an actual attorney.
You read her statement here
wherein she said “I am not equipped to fight this financially”, and “I’m so frightened thinking of the violence that may come in the near future from the state against me…”
Her fears notwithstanding, you still suggested she skip the public defender and act pro se and antagonistically challenge the judge.
You said, “This has worked in Texas for traffic tickets.” (Emphasis added.) But Jillian is not facing a traffic ticket. She’s facing two drug felonies.
You went on and on with this “question and challenge the judge” defense theory for your whole long talk with Jillian. This theory is largely what you promote on all your shows, and in your seminars, books, workshops, web forum, etc.
I’ve heard you similarly advise other people who are not trying to “make a stand” but simply trying to serve the least amount of jail time as possible. In doing so, I feel that you are making people pawns in your plan of how to fight the system.
Occasionally on your show you make self-deprecating comments like “Hey take my advice or don’t!” (usually followed by a laugh, like you’re joking). But that’s sadly lacking as a disclaimer, in my opinion. You make those jokes, then launch right back into pretending to know what you’re talking about, and give advice on how to “fight the man” to people who are just trying to stay out of jail. Your pet theory isn’t even particularly good advice for someone wanting to fight the man.
I have no ethical problem with someone practicing law without a license, if they’re good at it. But I don’t think you are good at it. One reason licensed, practicing attorneys are often much better at it then even the good “jailhouse lawyers” is that practicing attorneys have actually spent a lot of time in courtrooms in a wide variety of cases, and that’s where a lot of knowledge of the law comes from. They know the courts, the judges, and the (often persnickety) local rules. You can’t get it all from books.
In my opinion, you have a difficult time reconciling your vision of “how things should be in a perfect world” with how things are in reality. Your vision of “how things should be” has parallels to mine. You and I both believe that there should be private police and courts who actually have to earn their keep and only process real crimes, rather than the monopolistic tyrannical system of “justice” we have now.
But by providing your “clients” with bad advice, advice that comes out of some sovereign citizen-esque fantasy of “how things should be”, and your faulty belief that magic words make tyrants melt in fear, I believe you are doing more harm than good.
I’m looking at your Facebook page right now, and reading a note to you from a woman who had her 18-year-old daughter try your “legal advice” by asking the judge “Do you really believe I can get a fair trial?” It didn’t help and the woman seemed astonished that the judge didn’t dismiss the case on the spot.
There is no profit to me in railing on you. I love liberty media, and want there to be as much of it out there as possible. I spend hours each week giving free technical advice to people wanting to start or improve their podcasts and filmmaking. I get great joy from helping people create liberty media. Before today I would never have considered telling anyone “You should stop doing what you’re doing.”
I’m no fan of Ronald Reagan but he had some good quotes. One was his “11th Commandment”: “Never speak ill of a fellow Republican.”
I feel it’s an equally unwritten rule to not speak ill of fellow liberty activists. And your ideas about liberty are good. But when a fellow liberty activist is doing podcasts, radio, seminars, workshops, forums and books convincing people to do things that may endanger their liberty, without sufficient disclosure, I have to speak up.
Your legal advice would likely be solid if you were “practicing law” in a Heinlein novel. But in our current reality, much of your advice is not solid, and is more likely to hurt than to help. I wonder how many people are in jail or prison from following your advice.
I think your show, books, website and seminars are likely doing far more harm than good. I wish you’d do something productive instead. You’re a smart guy, and could certainly excel at many things that would not inadvertently harm others.
At the very minimum, I think you should add a pre-recorded disclaimer with every caller and guest on your show, something like “Marc Stevens is not an attorney. And any advice he gives is aimed at activists who want to ‘fight the man’, not folks whose primary concern is to stay out of jail.”
People calling in to your show don’t know your whole deal. When people are facing the horror of actual prison time, and cannot afford an attorney, they are very vulnerable. You seem to offer a solution, but you don’t give them the full terms of what your “solution” entails.
I’m even willing to professionally record that disclaimer for you, for free, if you’d use it
I’m going to be reading this letter next week on the Freedom Feens podcast, and will also be posting it on my blogs, LibertarianPunk.com and MichaelWDean.com, and elsewhere
Feel free to read this letter and reply on your podcast. I’d also like to offer you the opportunity to come on my podcast and respond. If you’d prefer to respond via e-mail I will print your response on my blogs and read your reply on the podcast.
Michael W. Dean
(This was e-mailed to Marc.)
Marc’s response is here:
Marc and Michael discussing this on Free Talk Live is here.
Ben Stone’s great response to the whole situation is here.
2013 UPDATE, 15 MONTHS AFTER THIS OPEN LETTER WAS WRITTEN. You should also listen, if you haven’t heard it, to the guy who says he’s facing 45 years from following Marc’s advice. It’s 4 minutes into this show:
Jillian follow up: She ignored Marc’s advice, hired a lawyer, and ended up doing no jail time, and was out about 5000 dollars for lawyer, travel, hotel and court costs. Several lawyers I talked to, including a former prosecutor, said if she’d taken Marc’s advice, she’d likely be facing a decade or more in prison.
Also check out MWD’s 2013 responses to a Marc fan bringing up questions about Marc, in the comments on this post.