Framers of U.S. Constitution cited in upholding Boise man's speeding conviction

jsowell@idahostatesman.comMay 7, 2014 

The Idaho Court of Appeals on Wednesday invoked James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and their writings in the Federalist Papers in upholding a 2012 speeding ticket issued to Boise resident Stephen D. L'Abbe.

At trial and in his appeal, L'Abbe argued that the state lacked the authority to try him. He also claimed the Ada County magistrate court that tried him erred by not allowing him to have a jury trial.

A Boise police officer cited L'Abbe on May 14, 2012, for driving 38 mph in a 25 mph zone. Magistrate Theresa Gardunia later found him guilty and fined L'Abbe $85.

Following an appeal to district court, Judge Michael McLaughlin upheld the conviction.

The Court of Appeals twice before ruled against L'Abbe. The court noted that it's "apparent that this court's previous analyses have done little to assuage L'Abbe's chief concern." Because other Idahoans have views similar to those of L'Abbe, the appeals court said it was important to more fully analyze the historical jurisdiction of Idaho's courts.

L'Abbe told the court he submits to the authority of the U.S. Constitution and the Article III judiciary, but claims the state does not have the authority to approve and enforce state laws.

"Missing from L’Abbe’s argument is the fact that state governments existed before the creation of the national government, are repeatedly referred to in the U.S. Constitution, and their power and capability are continuously referred to in federal court opinions," Chief Judge Sergio A. Gutierrez wrote in the nine-page opinion.

Gutierrez quoted Madison and Hamilton and their Federalist Paper writings in which they argued that states had the authority to enact laws and enforce them.

While the Federalist Papers are not law, Gutierrez and fellow Judges Karen Lansing and John Melanson said they reveal insight into the concerns and ideas discussed during the creation of the federal government and the U.S. Constitution.

"The Federalist Papers indicate that prior to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, state governments were recognized to have sovereign authority over their jurisdictions, which included making and enforcing state laws," Gutierrez wrote.

He also noted that the U.S. Constitution was written to "establish and govern the national government, not to abolish the state governments."

Idaho's constitution was approved on July 3, 1890, when President Benjamin Harrison signed the bill admitting Idaho as a state. The voter-approved constitution gave the state equal footing with the 13 original colonies that approved the U.S. Constitution.

The appeals court upheld the authority of the magistrate court. The court also upheld a law enacted by the Idaho Legislature that denies the right to a jury trial for traffic infractions.

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