Dumbest Legal Argument Ever?


A guy in Wisconsin made one of the worst legal arguments I’ve ever heard, arguing that the traffic laws do not apply to him because they only apply to “persons” while the Bible defines him as a “man” and that’s totally different. An appeals court in that state, predictably, agreed with me:

Jeffrey Manke had argued that his reading of the Bible defines him as a “man,” rather than a person, so the law doesn’t apply to him.

In a short opinion, the court said Wednesday the dictionary definition of “person” includes “man” within it.

“Manke does not develop any argument for how defining him as a ‘person’ denies him due process of the law or how it burdens his exercise of his religion,” the court said. “Manke has not met his burden to show how Wisconsin’s traffic laws are unconstitutional either facially or as applied to him.”

And according to the ruling, he offered another idiotic argument too:

Manke also challenges whether his Mazda constitutes a “vehicle” under Wis. Stat. § 346.57(4)(h). His argument is based on a conflation of the statutory definitions for “vehicle,” “motor vehicle,” and “commercial motor vehicle,” from which he decides that only vehicles used in the course of commercial activity are subject to the statute. Manke asserts he was not engaged in commerce while he was speeding, and therefore he cannot be convicted for violating § 346.57(4)(h). Manke’s Mazda is a vehicle regardless of the purpose for which it is employed.

And then there’s this footnote:

Manke also appears to challenge the statute as a violation of his “right to travel.” It is unclear to whom this argument is addressed as it comes in the form of a six-page letter written to the Fond du Lac county sheriff that is reproduced in the middle of Manke’s brief without explanation. Regardless, we decline to review this challenge and reject it for the same reasons as his other constitutional challenges.

I’m gonna take a stab in the dark here and assume that he represented himself in the case. If he had an actual attorney in the case, that guy should be disbarred for abject stupidity.

Comments

  1. TGAP Dad says

    I’m gonna take a stab in the dark here and assume that he represented himself…

    … And like the old adage, had a fool for a client.

  2. dingojack says

    ” If he had an actual attorney in the case, that guy should be disbarred for abject stupidity”.

    Undoubtedly before being hired by the State Republican Party, Thomas More Institute, CWA, FRC or WhirledNutsDaily.

    Dingo

  3. Ben P says

    “Manke also appears to challenge the statute as a violation of his “right to travel.” It is unclear to whom this argument is addressed as it comes in the form of a six-page letter written to the Fond du Lac county sheriff that is reproduced in the middle of Manke’s brief without explanation. Regardless, we decline to review this challenge and reject it for the same reasons as his other constitutional challenges.”

    Yeah, that sounds pro-se ish.

  4. blf says

    the Bible defines him as a “man”

    Had he argued the babble defines him as an “ass” the Court may have had a hard time disagreeing…

  5. imrryr says

    Manke also challenges whether his Mazda constitutes a “vehicle” under Wis. Stat. § 346.57(4)(h).

    Jeffrey Manke had argued that the guy at the Mazda dealership defined his car as a “babe magnet”, rather than a vehicle, so the law doesn’t apply to him.

  6. Who Knows? says

    I bet he’s one of those guys that believe if you ask someone if they are an under-cover cop, and they are, they are required by law to tell you.

  7. eric says

    I always wonder if folks like this actually believe their own arguments, or just want to appear in court. The optimist in me wants to believe he’s a rational human being who is just doing a “I’m bored with my life, lets see how long I can distract myself with this” sort of thing.

  8. eurosid says

    He sounds like one of the clowns who try to argue that they don’t have to pay income taxes because the “Sixteenth Amendment is unconstitutional”. Or whatever their ravings are about these days.

  9. Crip Dyke, MQ, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I am at least relieved that I don’t have to claim common citizenship with this dolt.

    I’m not sure how he even meant to invoke the 14th, after all, given that those entitled to due process are, “all persons born or naturalized…”.

    I claim the protection of the 14th amendment b/c I do not belong to the category of living things protected by the 14th amendment!

    yeah. That’ll work.

  10. says

    Manke also challenges whether his Mazda constitutes a “vehicle” under Wis. Stat. § 346.57(4)(h). His argument is based on a conflation of the statutory definitions for “vehicle,” “motor vehicle,” and “commercial motor vehicle,” from which he decides that only vehicles used in the course of commercial activity are subject to the statute.

    Well, crap. Guess I’m gonna have to trade in my Mazda 6, then. I specifically bought it because I wanted a vehicle. If anybody needs me I’ll be down at the Subaru dealership. Hopefully they have some vehicles.

  11. erichoug says

    Just once I would like to see one of these wackjobs come up with a reading of scripture that didn’t conveniently excuse them from some onerous civic duty.

    Like, one of them walks into city hall, lays down a couple grand and says “My reading of scripture indicates that I need to tithe to the state above and beyond my normal tax obligation.” Or one of them picking up trash along the side of the highway or volunteering in an AIDS hospice because their random reading of scripture told them to.

  12. The Lorax says

    Hey, gotta give the guy credit for trying. I mean, those were some of the longest of the long shots. Hell, reading Ed’s headline, I thought he only made one… come to find out, he made three, possibly more. Now that’s determination, folks.

    I also need to give the judge credit for writing that review of the case. I couldn’t imagine sitting there with that sort of evidence in front of you and NOT stepping out from behind the podium and smacking that guy across the face, or at the very least, writing a snarky review. Instead, he writes out a careful analysis of the evidence and explains clearly and calmly why it is dismissed. Props.

  13. says

    If he had an actual attorney in the case, that guy should be disbarred for abject stupidity.

    To the enduring shame of my profession, we haven’t disbarred Orly Taitz … yet.

  14. Abby Normal says

    Next time try science. The law fails to define a reference frame for measuring speed. For example the Earth is rotating at about 1050 mph. So this is selective enforcement at best or perhaps entrapment. Alternately, if he was traveling West to East at the time he could claim what the police call speeding was really a good faith effort to reduce his speed to under the legal limit. Or he could cite Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, claiming that since the police know where they pulled him over, it’s impossible to know just how fast he was going. So many possibilities.

  15. Hatchetfish says

    Or one of them picking up trash along the side of the highway or volunteering in an AIDS hospice because their random reading of scripture told them to.

    In fairness, I’d say those are actually reasonably common occurrences. Doesn’t mean they’re not twits for doing it to appease the invisible sky buddy, but I’m pretty sure those things happen.

    And given the people we’re talking about who ‘interpret’ the babble that way, would happen anyway.

  16. lokicleo says

    Great, we’ve got corporate personhood and now a man who doesn’t want to be a person.

    The judge did a wonderful job remaining professional. Don’t you think it would have been tempting to just go with it? Ok, so you are not a person, but you are here for speeding while driving a car. I’m not a zoologist, but you appear to be a kind of great ape. Clearly it is dangerous to have you running around loose. Can someone contact the SPCA or some wildlife sanctuaries to see if they can take him?

  17. says

    I have this sneaky feeling that this guy got some lesson on how, for example, all dogs are mammals, but not all mammals are dogs, and got the lesson backwards.

  18. Big Boppa says

    I drive through Fond du Lac several times per year. I see a lot of cars/pick-ups with “Ron Paul Nation” bumper stickers there and the MacDonald’s just south of town plays Fox “News” 24/7.

    If he had an actual attorney in the case, that guy should be disbarred for abject stupidity. [Ed]

    Have you forgotten Orly Taitz?

  19. Big Boppa says

    I have this sneaky feeling that this guy got some lesson on how, for example, all dogs are mammals, but not all mammals are dogs, and got the lesson backwards. [Bronze Dog @23]

    The judge should have tried explaining that all blueberries are blue berries but not all blue berries are blueberries. The mooks head would’ve split open.

  20. kermit. says

    Bronze Dog I have this sneaky feeling that this guy got some lesson on how, for example, all dogs are mammals, but not all mammals are dogs, and got the lesson backwards.

    No, he got that lesson down pat, he studied hard. But when he heard there were similar lessons regarding cats, horses, etc., he got overwhelmed and pulled out of the class. “Don’t see any need to learn hundreds of logicalistic lessons,” he explained.

  21. says

    Manke also challenges whether his Mazda constitutes a “vehicle” under Wis. Stat. § 346.57(4)(h). His argument is based on a conflation of the statutory definitions for “vehicle,” “motor vehicle,” and “commercial motor vehicle,” from which he decides that only vehicles used in the course of commercial activity are subject to the statute.

    Sounds like a listener to “Rule of Law Radio“, a nightly broadcast that teaches exactly this — that the Texas Transportation Code only covers those who are engaged in commercial transportation (i.e. if you are being paid to drive the vehicle). They run seminars on how to bamboozle the court system with procedural issues such as not showing your drivers license except until you are threatened with arrest for not doing so, arguing the difference between criminal and civil codes, objecting to anything and everything, getting judges recused, and so on.

    It’s nuts, and I can’t imagine that it succeeds very often, especially since the majority of those calling in are not exactly the sharpest tools in the shed.

    Of course, if these tricks started to work, they would change the law to close these loopholes anyway, otherwise you could break traffic laws with impunity and all hell would break loose on the roads.

    Only once has a called confronted the hosts with this point (that I’ve heard) and they gave the most pathetic of responses — that accidents in private vehicles aren’t as dangerous as those involving commercial vehicles.

    It’s all rather sick and ridiculous, but kind of fascinating at the same time.

  22. LightningRose says

    “Dumbest Legal Argument Ever?”

    I dunno. It’s pretty hard to beat Kent Hovind’s “Subornation of False Muster”.

  23. says

    Well, now I’m disappointed, because according to the bible, I’m property, and I could no more be ticketed for speeding than his mazda could be. On the other hand, I guess that would mean I could be impounded which sounds less appealing than a ticket.

  24. Sastra says

    Abby Normal @20 wrote:

    So many possibilities.

    Yes. After science, he should try philosophy. How do we know we are not just brains in a box being fed misleading sensory experiences? We can’t know! And so forth.

    My first thought was that the gentleman was trying to use some argument from the ‘Protect Marriage’ crowd — keep the legal distinction between “man and woman” and “two persons” — but tacitus #27 makes a convincing case for some sovereign state nut listening to radio advice.

    Actually, my first thought was that the man who filed this argument is probably mentally ill, to some extent. I’d still go with that one, but assume he’s also garbling some wingnut point.

  25. Abby Normal says

    Sastra @30

    After science, he should try philosophy

    This reminds me of an episode of Northern Exposure from back when there was a show called Northern Exposure. One of the characters, Chris, was fighting an extradition order from the state of Virginia. His defense hinged on the argument that, since moving to Alaska, he had undergone such a profound change in character as to constitute a separate and distinct person from the one wanted in Virginia. From a Heraclitean, “No man can cross the same river twice,” perspective, it really tickled my fancy.

    Silly as it is, I still love to contemplate the implications. What defines a person? What is the purpose of punishment? If someone has amnesia and essentially becomes a new person, would it be just to punish them for a crime from their old life, a crime they don’t even remember committing? What purpose would it serve? Is the severity of the crime relevant?

    Or how about the true story of a construction worker who, after suffering brain damage from an incident with a nail gun, transformed from a cruel and violent sadist into a kind and gentle man. Should he be jailed for assaults committed before his accidental lobotomy? Would sending a good man to prison really serve the best interests of him or the community? If not, then what of the person who similarly transformed themselves without the brain trauma? Is he or she any less deserving of pardon?

    We don’t punish people for actions they couldn’t control. That’s the heart of the temporary insanity plea. Sleepwalking has been used successfully as a criminal defense. (Though convincing a jury that’s really what happened is a difficult sell.) It would be unjust to punish someone for circumstances beyond their control. So justice is not simply a matter of punishing actions. Intent is important, but why?

    Fun things to think about on a rainy day.

  26. says

    He sounds like one of the clowns who try to argue that they don’t have to pay income taxes because the “Sixteenth Amendment is unconstitutional”. Or whatever their ravings are about these days.

    The reasoning here is standard tax protestor nonsense. They are constantly trying to claim that the tax laws don’t apply to them because they are not “tax payers” or “persons” or whatever the actual words are that appear in the tax code. Some of the dumber ones believe that adding capitalization, hyphens, or some other change in formatting makes the words or names mean something different than what they are clearly intended to mean.

    It’s part of a more general conceptual error in which words are taken to have magical properties, and that you can change the nature of a thing (and what laws apply to it) by changing what something is called. They seem to think that the law is a mystical incantation where each word must be uttered in a precise order or the spell fails to work. Fnord.

  27. iknklast says

    You know, Ed, this isn’t too different from the leader of our local tea party, who as picked up for DUI and argued that the DUI laws are unconstitutional. Thanks to his inventiveness, he ended up spending a couple weeks in jail, when he probably would have just gotten a fine.

    Now he’s like to be the next legislator – and he has stated publicly that our laws are made by God, not man, and we answer only to God.

  28. im says

    The funniest ones are the ones who thing that fringe on the courtroom flag means it is secretly a military law court where they have no rights.

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