“I teach patriots how to regain control of their government.” That’s how Rebecca O’Dell Townsend, a conservative St. Pete appellate lawyer who has filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, explains her work.
About 300 of those “patriots,” to be sure, turned out to the Agriculture Center on U.S. 90 Monday night to hear her speak at the Concerned Patriots of Jackson County’s monthly “Tea Party” event. Several smart persons running for local office, including judicial candidates Pete Mallory and Mike Reiter, were allowed to speak to the crowd as were several county commission candidates.
Townsend appears to be as handy with the constitution as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; she’s just as conservative and probably a better public speaker.
Townsend is a firebrand, a brilliant lawyer and a speaker who can be quite technical in her explanations of the law. But she broke down the complicated legal talk Monday night and judging from the frequent applause interruptions, she was quite effective.
Essentially, she argued that the trouble with the country today is all the liberal judges, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg, legislating from the bench and making rulings that violate the constitution. Those rulings, when turned into enforced law, hurt the people through ways such as taking God out of the classroom, the courts and any other available areas. Townsend argues forcefully that our “inalienable rights” are given by God, as the Declaration of Independence says.
One of Townsend’s solutions can be put quite simply: The constitution allows the President and Congress to remove judges for “bad behavior” on the bench. They are not necessarily appointed for life, she said. And that bad behavior can be evidenced by a failure to uphold a strict interpretation of the constitution, as their oaths of office require.
Townsend began and ended her hour-long speech with this quote from founding father Thomas Jefferson: “The issue today is the same as it has been throughout history, whether man should be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.”
The Congress has control of the federal court’s jurisdiction, Townsend said, and that judiciary is, and should be, the weakest of the three branches of government, as Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers.
Townsend said President Abraham Lincoln wisely used the Constitution when he suspended writs of habeas corpus during the Civil War. Marshalls who went to Ft. McHenry to collect a suspect, in one incidence, and were told, “Sorry, you can’t have him,” Townsend said. “My boss in the President of the United States, not you and he said no.”
Townsend had stinging criticism for Supreme Court members that reduced private property rights in what Newt Gingrich has called the “tragic” Kelo vs. City of New London (Conn.) case. New London was granted eminent domain against a homeowner because a development at the site would raise tax revenues and thereby be “for the common good” of the public.
“Taking private property for the ‘public good’ is Marxism!” Townsend declared. “The constitution talks about public use, not public good. Property rights are sacred. They are given by God. We can remove judges for bad behavior.”
Townsend, a 1999 graduate of the Stetson University College of Law in St. Pete, can be reached at her web address email@example.com or www.rebecca.odell.org. She travels the country speaking on “Our Current Constitutional Crisis,” she says. As is her policy, she did not charge the Jackson County Patriots group a speaking fee. She has filed briefs before the Supreme Court “on behalf of Liberty Counsel, Wallbuilders and William Federer,” she told the TIMES after her speech.