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Power Foreign to Our Constitution
The Politics of Changing a Light Bulb
by Ron Branson - National J.A.I.L. CIC -
First published in The Seattle Sinner July, 2007

Life is a series of problems and solutions, some trivial and some major. One of the trivial problems we in society face is that light bulbs do not last forever. The solution is quite simple: you purchase a new light bulb, remove the old one, and replace it with the new one. Now, this is not complicated, is it? But now let us enter police, lawyers, and politics into the equation of changing a light bulb.

In my eighteen years of legal research and fourteen cases to the United States Supreme Court, (no I am not an attorney), I came across a case that involved a woman driving through the City of Burbank, California. She was stopped by a  police officer because she had a tail light out, unbeknownst to her.

As a result, the officer asked to see her drivers license, and as many women having two purses, she realized that her drivers license was in her other purse. She was arrested, taken down to the police station where she was fingerprinted, photographed, and endured the humiliation of a strip-search, which also included a cavity search.

Thereafter, she brought suit against the City of Burbank and its police department. As a result of her suit, she established that neither the fact of a light bulb being out, nor the absence of the presence of a drivers license justified probable cause to conduct a strip and cavity search of her body.

While we can all easily figure this out as it is dictated to us by common sense, after many untold hundreds of thousands of expended dollars, lawyers fighting each other on both sides, plus years of court litigation, the bulb was replaced. Problem solved!

[We still do not know whether the City of Burbank was looking inside the woman for a light bulb, or a drivers license. And what did the City Council of Burbank learn from this experience? They learned that they are going to have to raise taxes in case there are future lawsuits of this nature.]

Now you may very well be thinking that this is just an isolated incident, and you are thankful that it is not the norm. Well, I am here to tell you that these types of litigation are all too common.

Take, for instance, the recent experience of Henry Nicolle of Ventura, California just last month, March, 2007. Quoting excerpts from Mr. Nicolle's testimony, he states:

"I was going home at about 10:45 in the evening, an early evening for me. I noted a car behind me for the last few blocks before my house, but it appeared to be a compact, not a full size, and when the red and blue lights came on, I was a little surprised. I finished my turn, went about a quarter block and turned into a small business office complex and parked."

"The young female officer approached my rear left side and said she had stopped me for the unlighted license plate. I said, 'Oh golly, I think I have a replacement, let me get in the glove box and I'll fix it right now and we can all go home, happy.' She said, "No, I don't care about that, let me see your drivers license and registration." "

His response was limited to questioning the officer as to whether he had committed a crime and was being placed under arrest. Continuing quote:
"Her backup arrived and her sergeant arrived and took over the interrogation. We then established...that I had been stopped for a traffic infraction, that I could not answer the license question, that I was not free to go, that I was detained and arrested, there was no warrant and...that I had committed a crime. ...I then closed the conversation by the demand that I need to speak with my counsel and had nothing else to say until I had the advice of counsel."
Henry says that when he stated that he needed counsel prior to answering their questions, they handcuffed him and placed him into the police car. Then, he said, a police officer took each side of the car, searching it thoroughly with three additional officers searching the trunk for approximately fifteen minutes. They sifted through oil containers, tools, donated clothing for charity, and his Congressional campaign materials (he was a congressional candidate). Then, prior to completing the search, he was transported to jail, and thereafter in his absence, the car impounded. Within an hour of impounding, the owner of the car (Mr. Nicolle was not the owner), was forced to pay $455 to obtain his car following the one-hour impound.
"So, then I entered the booking section. 'Stand here, look there, take off your shoes, ... answer these questions and sign this.' Sorry, I cannot do either of those without the advice of counsel." ... They replied that if I did not talk and sign I would never see counsel nor would I see a magistrate. ...

"They had me strip naked and locked me in the "medical observation cell." This is a standard 8 or 12 foot X about 15 foot cell, but with nothing to disturb the pleasant pea green 1/4-inch-thick urethane industrial, self-skinning foam which blankets every surface except the 10 X 18 inch barred hole in the floor which serves as both a universal toilet and a drain for the hose-down cleanup. Believe me, the effect of the foam on the bare flesh and bone is little different that ordinary concrete or wood.

"Over the following 8 or 9 hours, I shivered and dozed on the cold, hard floor while a variable parade of the curious visited my cell window.  I heard the arresting officer and another female, and probably a dozen different male voices with conversations along these lines:  Casually - "Who's the guy in the penalty box?" "Oh that's Henry Nicolle, one of those 'Liberty People' ". "Oh? Why did we arrest him?" "Just a license plate light infraction." (incredulously) "An infraction? Why do you have him in there?" "He won't answer our receiving questions and he won't sign the inventory without advice of counsel and he wants to see the on-call magistrate." "Oh. Well, those guys are all nuts anyway."

"...Our conversations reject the concept that the green rubber room, or Penalty Box, had anything to do with psychiatric or medical observation. Its function and deliberate use are a form of torture, and not self-torture. You have no choices.

  • You will talk and sign or you will stay in here all night.
  • You will talk and sign or you will stay in here all night and all of tomorrow and not see the magistrate in the morning.
  • You will answer our questions and sign our documents or you will NEVER leave this room.
  • You can see your counsel after you sign and answer our questions, but not before. ....
  • "About 7-8 AM, a sergeant opened the cell and threw a set of jail clothes to me. 'Get dressed, I'm going to move you to another cell." I was moved to the next sequential cell which had two phones, a bench and a standard prison toilet. ...Eventually I was released about 1 AM the following morning. (Wednesday). ...

    Henry Nicolle."

    Let us not forget, the problem was simply a broken bulb over the license plate  which the owner was able to replace after paying $455 to get his car out of impound.

    This publication is written to educate you on the inner workings of "government" and "The Politics of Changing a Light Bulb."

    For those of you who wish to email Mr. Henry Nicolle about this light bulb experience, he may be contacted at

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