There’s plenty of libertarian activism, yet America is still a sea of fascism and socialism with the cheering mob firmly entrenching a police industrial complex into place to help them sleep at night. The great unwashed are easy pickings for the policing-for-profit boys and girls in blue who maraude city streets and beyond ensnaring the un-lawyered with intimidation and incarceration.

After hearing a few stories from former District Court Judge John Denson, I believe for the young and ambitious there might a better way to fight the good fight for liberty.  Judge Denson is the reason the Mises Institute is in Auburn, Alabama, currently serves on the Institute’s board of directors, and is the author of books such as A Century of War and The Costs of War. 

A few weeks ago he reminisced about cops who would come to him with warrants for his signature.  He said they often couldn’t explain exactly what the warrants were for.  “I’d tell them to get their facts straight and then come back to me,” Denson said. “Often they couldn’t get it right the second time around either.”

How many police departments and officers are able to count on lackadaisical judges who will sign off on anything because they can’t be bothered or assume the cops are always right?

Maxine Neel was convicted of murdering her son-in-law Glenn Hall in 2006. Hall had frequently threatened Neel and her daughter and Neel killed Glenn in self-defense when he broke into her house.  The local District Attorney had no sympathy for the abused mother and daughter and sought a murder charge.  The jury convicted her.

However, the facts were clearly on the side of Ms. Neel, and her attorney asked Denson to acquit his client on all charges. “Evidence was also presented indicating that Hall had threatened Christy [Neel’s daughter], that police had been called to their residence several times before the shooting, and that Hall had a severe drug problem. The coroner also testified that Hall had cocaine in his system at the time of his death.”

District Attorney Robbie Treese was incensed. “…That, absent some new fact, some compelling reason, which has not been presented to this court today, is something this court should never do,” Treese told the local paper.

The heroic judge ignored the DA and local pressure and acquitted Neel. However, the DA’s office didn’t give up, filing a petition for a writ of mandamus after Denson set aside the jury’s guilty verdict in April 2009. “We just felt like the judge was in error,” said Lee County District Attorney Nick Abbett.

The O-A News reported on March 30, 2010, “The writ of mandamus granted Friday by the court of criminal appeals directs Lee County Circuit Court Judge John V. Denson II to set aside his acquittal and sentence Neel ‘in accordance with her conviction for murder.’”

Thirty days later Denson petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court to review and order the Court of Criminal Appeals to vacate its order and uphold his decision granting Neel’s post-trial motion for acquittal. The judge argued the Court of Criminal Appeals exceeded its authority, improperly issued the writ of mandamus, and the district attorney’s petition was procedurally defective and without merit.

In August of 2010, Denson and Neel were vindicated.  “The Alabama Supreme Court granted a Lee County judge’s petition to overturn a state appeals court order and confirmed the acquittal of Mary Maxine Neel of murder charges in the 2006 death of her son-in-law,” the O-A News reported.

Denson made sure justice was done, that a person can protect themselves in their own home from a violent intruder: a basic tenant of property rights.  Obviously the District Attorney’s office had no interest in such rights.

The importance of competent judges extends to the entire economy according to a paper presented by Jorge Solis at the Troy University’s 2015 Undergraduate Research Conference on Liberty and the American Tradition hosted by the Manuel Johnson Center in April.

Solis and his co-author Thuy Nguyen found from studying court systems around the country that “judicial independence upholds the rule of law and thus increases wealth.” Judge find their way to the bench in various ways depending upon the state, from appointment or merit to election and combinations of the three.

Solis and Nguyen write, ”people only invest in something when they believe that the investment will be collected by them and increase their personal wealth. The protection of property rights reduces the risks of lost returns and spurs investments, which leads to growth.”

The student’s “regressions did not yield the conclusive results” they had hoped for, but, “there is still economic significance that can be derived from the analysis.”

Indeed, as Denson was elected to the district court, it is very possible for judges elected by their constituents to be sound and uphold the rule of law. So for those young people who have an interest in the law and liberty, rather than seek to be legislators who must constantly compromise to make a tiny difference, donning a robe, swinging a gavel, and upholding existing laws is more effective.

Who knows maybe you can ascend to a powerful court position such as Judge Alex Kozinski, who was until last December, chief judge of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Appointed by President Reagan judge Kozinski spent decades doing battle with judges on the left and right. He told Reason magazine, “I disagree with the liberals on the bench half of the time,” he chuckles, “and the conservatives the other half.”

Even when he wasn’t in the majority, Kozinski often held sway because of the power and wittiness of his dissents. In United States v. Ramirez-Lopez the 9th circuit upheld a lower court’s guilty verdict despite the government deporting all witnesses who claimed the defendant was innocent while detaining witnesses willing to say he was guilty.

Shikha Dalmia wrote,

Kozinski, in his dissent, constructed a bitingly funny dialogue in which Lopez’s attorney explains to his hapless client why denying his due process rights was necessary to ensure him a fair trial. So effective was Kozinski’s parody of the court’s circuitous logic that, despite its legal victory, the government dropped the charges against Lopez and suspended his sentence.

As states struggled to effectively euthanize prisoners with lethal injections last year, Kozinski proposed bringing back the firing squad,

Whatever happens to Wood, the attacks will not stop and for a simple reason: The enterprise is flawed. Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful—like something any one of us might experience in our final moments. But executions are, in fact, nothing like that. They are brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should it.

If some states and the federal government wish to continue carrying out the death penalty, they must turn away from this misguided path and return to more primitive—and foolproof—methods of execution. The guillotine is probably best but seems inconsistent with our national ethos. And the electric chair, hanging and the gas chamber are each subject to occasional mishaps. The firing squad strikes me as the most promising. Eight or ten large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time. There are plenty of people employed by the state who can pull the trigger and have the training to aim true . . .

Sure, firing squads can be messy, but if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood.

I may have him wrong, but Kozinski seems to be making the point that it’s barbaric for the state to execute anyone.

If you’re like H.L Mencken and can say, “I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office,” consider upholding laws currently on the books, make sure a few don’t get enforced, and keep the police state in check.

We need more Kozinski’s and Denson’s, not politicians.