Professional Troublemaker

 Jonathan Corbett, Civil Rights Advocate

The Most Epic Court Transcript Ever

Warning: Disturbing language.

Denver Allen

Denver Allen, a resident of Floyd County, Ga.’s jail, doesn’t much like judges.  Or attorneys.  Or his cellmate that he allegedly murdered, which led to a preliminary hearing on the matter last week.

The popcorn-worthy part of the full 19-page transcript begins when Mr. Allen requests that the court appoint him a different public defender:

MR ALLEN: He’s misrepresenting my case.  He told me if I wanted him to do a good job, I had to let him give me oral sex…

When the Hon. J. Bryant Durham, Jr. suggests that his claims — both the demand for sex and general allegations of ineffective counsel — are not believable and he won’t be getting a new attorney, he takes it to the next level:

THE COURT: Listen to me.

MR. ALLEN: Fuck you.

THE COURT: Listen to me.

MR. ALLEN: Go fuck yourself.  I’m through here.  Are y’all done?

THE COURT: I’m finding you in contempt of court.

MR. ALLEN: I don’t care.

THE COURT:  I know you don’t.  And I sentence you to 20 days for that.  And if you say anything else, I’m going to add twenty days for everything you say.

MR. ALLEN: Fuck you.

THE COURT: 40 days.

MR. ALLEN: Fuck you again.


MR. ALLEN: Go fuck yourself.

THE COURT: A year.

MR. ALLEN: Your mama.

THE COURT: 10 years.

MR. ALLEN: Suck my dick.

It doesn’t stop there.  After more general profanity, it gets stepped up another notch, as the judge gets baited into sinking down to his level:

THE COURT: You know, you look like a queer.

MR. ALLEN: Well, okay, so now you’re calling me a queer in the courtroom?

THE COURT: I didn’t call you one.  I said you looked like one.

[…more banter…]

MR. ALLEN: Can we get a court order to get my dick sucked, sir?

THE COURT: You’re so cute.  I know all the inmates just love you to death.

MR. ALLEN: Oh, yeah.

THE COURT: Oh, I bet.

MR. ALLEN: All those white butt boys love me to death, too.

THE COURT: Okay.  Well, I’ll bet they do, and I bet all the rest of them do, too.

MR. ALLEN: You ain’t supposed to smile in court.

THE COURT: I’ll bet everybody enjoys sucking your cock.

But, there’s just one more way to notch this up to the next level:

MR. ALLEN: How about this — I’ll kill your whole family.  When I get in this trial, I will murder your whole family.  I’ll cut your children up into pieces.  I’ll knock their brains out with a fucking hammer and feed them to you

Truly amazing.

What Is Wrong in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California?

My latest lawsuit, against EDC music festival promoter Insomniac, was filed in the U.S District Court located in Los Angeles (each state is divided into 1 or more federal districts, and Los Angeles is in one of California’s 4 districts called the “Central District of California”).  Last Tuesday, I filed that complaint as well as a motion for a temporary restraining order, and was shocked (and somewhat impressed) that the judge ruled on the motion the same day it was filed.  His ruling was that there is enough time to give the opposing party time to reply before the music festival, and so a temporary restraining order (which is a type of injunction heard without the other side) was inappropriate.

Fair enough — so I re-filed 2 days later, serving the motion on the other parties and asking the judge to reconsider the motion as a preliminary injunction (which is a type of injunction heard with the other side).  Again, a same day reply, but this time less impressive: motion denied with no reason given.

I was a bit surprised, as this kind of rapid bouncing of all documents was not typical of my experience in other U.S. District Courts (by my count, this is the 16th case I’ve filed in these courts).  So, I went to look up what other people had to say about the judge on The Robing Room — basically, Yelp for judges, where litigants who appear before (mostly) federal judges can rate their judge and write feedback.  But, right on the front page, I see this:


There are over 600 U.S. district judges, and while the federal courts up by San Francisco in the Northern District of California (N.D. Cal.) are ranked at the top, 5 of the 10 worst ranked federal judges in the country are in the Central District of California (C.D. Cal.).  The judge assigned to my case is the Hon. Philip S. Gutierrez, who ranks the 8th worst federal judge in country according to The Robing Room’s users.

Why have people ranked these 5 judges so low?  Here’s a look at some of the choice commentary:

“As a former colleague of Judge Keller’s, who observed him behind the scenes of the bench, I am very sorry to say that he lacks intellect, patience, and impartiality, and always has been arrogant and ill-tempered. He was, and continues to be, a disgrace to the bench on which he stubbornly continues to serve.”

–Anonymous Criminal Defense lawyer regarding the Hon. William D. Keller (ranked #1 worst), posted September 6th, 2012.  Judge Keller is a Reagan appointee who has been on the bench since 1984.

“I sat in the courtroom as an observer to a trial regarding securities laws. I was appalled at the behavior, conduct, and knowledge of the law (or rather the lack thereof) of this ‘judge.’ He is rude, and sleeps most of the time, only to open his mean eyes occasionally to bark at the lawyers or those who testify. At times he is completely disoriented and does not understand or follow the details of the case.”

–Anonymous Unspecified Commenter regarding the Hon. Manuel L. Real (ranked #2 worst), posted October 24th, 2013.  Judge Real is an LBJ appointee who has been on the bench since 1966 (!!). By my calculations he is 92 years old, and has apparently been removed from several cases for bias.

“Judge Wright bullied the defendants’ counsel, no retrain in exhibiting his blatant bias towards the prosecution, paraded around the courtroom waving a baseball bat, pushing said bat into his crotch while facing defendants female counsel, acting if he was about to strike the lawyers with it all outside the presents of a jury, referred to the people of California as ‘morons’, said marijuana defendants should be slapped around for a bit before being forced into a boot camp until they would no longer break the law.”

–Anonymous Unspecified Commenter regarding the Hon. Otis D. Wright, II (ranked #3 worst), posted June 7th, 2014.  Judge Wright is a Bush 43 appointee who has been on the bench since 2007.  The bat comment was corroborated by a second commenter the next day.

“I’ve been a litigator in state and federal courts for 37 years. Without question, Judge Anderson is the most offensive, laziest, most arrogant, insulting and imbalanced judge that I have ever had the misfortune to stand before.”

— Anonymous Civil Litigator regarding the Hon. Percy Anderson (ranked #6 worst), posted December 12th, 2013.  Judge Anderson is a Bush 43 appointee who has been on the bench since 2002.

…and finally, the judge assigned to my case:

“He is a very nice man, but he is not a very good judge. He looks for any excuse to get rid of civil cases and doesn’t care about the effect that has on the litigants and counsel. If you draw him, good luck.”

— Anonymous Civil Litigator regarding the Hon. Philip S. Gutierrez (ranked #8 worst), posted August 25th, 2015.  Judge Gutierrez is another Bush 43 appointee who has been on the bench since 2007.  This comment is corroborated by other posters who say that he “comes up with wacky ways to get rid of cases” and “[l]ooks for any reason to get rid of a case no matter how flimsy.”

Ah, that explains my motion being promptly denied without actual consideration.

Well, I filed the fastest Notice of Appeal in my experience on Friday, just 3 days after opening the case.  Now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will have a look at the motion for preliminary injunction and Judge Gutierrez’ rapid denial of it without explanation.

Still, what’s with the concentration of low-ranked judges in this district?

Corbett v. Insomniac – Emergency Motion for Injunction Pending Appeal (.pdf)

Corbett Sues Music Festival Producer Insomniac Over Discriminatory Search

EDC 2015
EDC 2015 was a blast!

As some of you know, in addition to my civil rights advocacy, I’m a music fanatic, and I create and perform electronic music, as well as seek out the best music events across the world. The Electric Daisy Carnival music festival, held annually in Las Vegas, NV, has been one of my favorites because of the massive attention paid to creating an experience, rather than just a set of stages.

So it was much to my disappointment this year to read that EDC producer Insomniac has decided that it will not only search every attendee entering the venue with a self-described “TSA-style search,” but it will prohibit all over-the-counter medicine and require festival-goers to “explain” their prescription medication.

Music events since Woodstock have had drug usage, and I appreciate that Insomniac feels an obligation to minimize unlawful drug usage at its events.  However, this policy, beyond being invasive, is downright dangerous.  Many people need over-the-counter drugs to avoid serious medical issues.  Consider, for example, the person with allergies who carries Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to counter a reaction.  With the 18+ crowd that EDC attracts, will a teen with an allergy decide to leave his medication behind so he can go party, risking, well, death?

It’s also downright discriminatory.  No one should have to “explain” their HIV meds, schizophrenia drugs, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome in order to enter a place of public accommodation.  And unfortunately, Insomniac isn’t the only one to do it.  I’ve personally seen many nightclubs in America refuse entry to people with lawful medicine.  However, Insomniac is the first I’ve seen so blatantly publish such a policy for such a massive event.  As such, today I filed suit against Insomniac and the owner of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway where EDC takes place, alleging discrimination as prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act and related state laws.

The case is Corbett v. Insomniac, 16-CV-3604, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, where Insomniac is headquartered.

Corbett v. Insomniac – Complaint with Exhibit (.pdf)

Corbett v. Insomniac – Motion for TRO (.pdf)

Corbett v. Insomniac – Motion for TRO Affidavit (.pdf)

Fighting for civil rights in court is expensive!  Want to contribute to the fight against assholery? Donate via PayPal, Venmo, Chace QuickPay, Bitcoin, or check

Is It *Really* Impossible To Get A Gun License in NYC? (Part II)

Not so fast, Mr. Corbett…

In March I wrote Part I of my journey to see if the rumors are true that it’s impossible for the average citizen to get a license to carry a handgun in New York City.  Part I described the application, $430 filing fee, and then the follow-up where the City asked for more than 2 dozen additional pieces of documentation, all of which I provided but could not seem to get in touch with the NYPD officer assigned to investigate my application.

Well, just a day after posting and sharing on Twitter with a tag to NYPD’s official @NYPDnews account, which spiked traffic to the blog on the order of several thousands of viewers, I suddenly got an e-mail from the licensing officer saying that he noticed we had difficulty reaching each other and scheduling an interview.   I’ll never know if making it public was what did it, but I suspect it may have helped.  (BTW, if you don’t yet follow me on Twitter, add me!)

I met with Officer Barberio, who was a friendly guy and took only a few minutes of my time to tell me that my background was clear but my “reason” for wanting a license probably wouldn’t make it past the higher-ups that would have a look at the application.  You see, New York law requires people who want to exercise their right to bear arms to give a reason.  The reason can be self-defense, but the applicant, apparently, must show a need for self-defense greater than the average citizen.  Gun licenses in New York are issued by county, and many counties apparently are lenient on this requirement, but not those comprising New York city.

Officer Barberio also clarified a few anomalies regarding the paperwork.  He explained that despite the forms available from the NYPD stating that one must have a business reason for applying to carry a handgun, you can ignore that part and state a personal reason.  He explained that the requirement to have your roommate’s consent, if you live with someone else, isn’t a bar to getting a license, but would result in them interviewing your roommate.  And, he explained that reference letters are no longer required, even though his form letter to me weeks prior insisted that they are.

About 3 weeks later, a letter appears from the NYPD.  Its title was “NOTICE OF DISAPPROVAL,” and explained the NYPD’s position regarding the requirement of showing a need.  The letter cited Kachalsky v. Cacace, by which it really meant Kachalsky v. County. of Westchester, 701 F.3d 81 (2d Cir. 2012), wherein the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the provision of New York law that allowed the state to demand a “reason.”

The only problem?  In the meantime, two other circuits of the Court of Appeals have ruled otherwise.   Middle America got its decision in Moore v. Madigan, 702 F.3d 933 (7th Cir. 2012, Posner, J.) and the west coast got it in Peruta v. San Diego, 742 F.3d 1144 (9th Cir. 2014).  Peruta is pending an en banc (larger set of judges) review that should be (re-)decided any day now.  I shall wait for that decision before I file suit, and in the meantime have filed an administrative appeal with the NYPD.

Stay tuned for Part III this summer…🙂

Fighting for civil rights in court is expensive!  Want to contribute to the fight against government assholery? Donate via PayPal, Venmo, Chace QuickPay, Bitcoin, or check

TSA: Taking Pictures Of Our Dogs Is Illegal!

I’m told that this picture is very illegal.  TSA K-9 handler at JFK T1 immediately before ordering me to stop taking pictures.

On Friday, I flew out of New York’s JFK T1 after experiencing what was the longest airport security line I have ever seen. It literally stretched from the zig-zag queue at the center of the terminal to the far end of the terminal, and then around the corner. The TSA, of course, knows that terrorists now target security lines, rather than airplanes, and doesn’t seem to care that they are putting us at risk, but I digress.

After finally reaching the front of the queue, I spotted, for the first time, the TSA’s new experiment with bomb-sniffing dogs. Interested in finally seeing the TSA put a far better solution in place for the detection of non-metallic explosives than the body scanners, I snapped a few pictures, including the one here.

But, of course, the TSA can’t leave well enough alone. “You can’t take pictures!” barks the dog’s handler. I can’t? Well that’s news to me, and I consider myself pretty up-to-date on aviation security law.🙂 I soon spot an STSO (supervisory transportation security officer — the “3 stripe” blue uniform people) and ask her to clarify, but she tells me she doesn’t have time to talk to me. Eventually, I spot her boss, the TSM (transportation security manager — always wearing a suit), a very friendly South Asian woman who is cheerfully tells me that my First Amendment right to photograph has been suspended:

Jon: Are you the TSM by chance?

TSM: Yes.

Jon: I have a question for you.

TSM: Sure.

Jon: What’s the policy on taking pictures in line?  The person with the K-9 told me I was not allowed to take pictures.

TSM: Yes, that’s a screening process, what he’s doing there, so you’re not allowed to take pictures.

Jon: OK, so that’s a federal regulation?

TSM: Yes.

Jon: Not New York state, that’s a TSA…

TSM: No, not New York state, it’s federal.

Jon: Ok, so if I ask the TSA, because I’m a civil rights advocate, and my job is to sue the TSA, if I ask them, they’re going to tell me that I’m not allowed to take the pictures, and that’s official TSA policy?

TSM: You have to specify what you were doing.

Jon: Taking a picture of a K-9.

TSM: You can’t.

Jon: OK.

TSM: Because that’s a screening process.

Where legal, I generally record my interactions with the TSA, and New York being a 1-party consent state (any party to a conversation may record it), I got an audio recording (.mp3).  (As a side note, a reasonable argument can be made, and some courts have held, that audio or video recording of government officials while working in public is constitutionally protected even in 2-party consent states.)

Why is this a “big deal,” some may ask: Any time the government restricts our ability to take pictures, they are reducing their accountability to the people. Thousands of times per day, law enforcement in this country violates the rights of citizens, but only occasionally is it caught on camera, and only then is it punished (sometimes).  By removing our ability to document their actions, they are insulating themselves from consequences for wrongdoing, and this a free society cannot stand.

I’ve asked the TSA’s Civil Rights Office to comment as to whether this is official TSA policy and await a reply, but expect a new lawsuit to be filed soon either way.

Terrorists Detonate Bombs in Brussels Airport — Before The Security Checkpoint

International media reports today that 2 bombs went off in BRU airport, just outside of Brussels, Belgium, and Islamic State has claimed responsibility.  How did they get these bombs past security?  They didn’t…

Passengers queuing at terminal counters described sudden panic and mayhem as the explosions turned the departure area into a death trap with flames, smoke, flying glass and shrapnel.

This is far from the first time such attacks have happened.  For example, just 5 years ago terrorists bombed DME outside Moscow, Russia, killing 37 people.

As passengers flying from US airports this year have been told to gear up for longer wait times, largely due to the additional time added to screening by body scanners that don’t actually stop threats, they should realize what this means is that the security queues are getting longer.  It sounds an awful lot to me like the TSA is creating a target rather than protecting one.  Would it make less of a terroristic statement for ISIS to blow up a TSA checkpoint with 150 people than to blow up a 737 with 150 people?  Of course not.

This mess brought to the taxpayer at a cost of $8B per year.

Fighting the TSA in court is expensive!  Want to contribute to the fight against TSA assholery? Donate via PayPal, Venmo, Chace QuickPay, Bitcoin, or check

TSA Tries Doing Exactly What I’ve Asked It To Do for 5 Years: Metal Detectors + Dogs

The TSA announced an “exciting” “new” program that it’s trialing in MSP airport in Minnesota:

After a explosives-detection dog sniffs passengers for traces of explosives, travelers can then move through expedited screening like the Precheck program, where they can leave on shoes and light coats, and leave laptops and small containers of liquids in their carry-on bags.

“You’ll see them snaking up and down the line,” Neffenger said of the canine teams. “I’m very excited about getting extra teams here.”


In other words, passengers that pass a dog skip the body scanner and go through a metal detector.  This is exactly what I’ve been asking the TSA to do since the very beginning, because:

  1. dogDogs are by far cheaper than the body scanners.  A body scanner costs $300,000, functions for less than a decade, and requires significantly more man-hours per
    passenger than a dog, which may cost low-5 figures to train and a couple bucks a day in food.
  2. Dogs are by far tougher to beat than the body scanners.  The fact of the matter is that if you’ve been working with explosives, you likely have traces of it all over your body, and you’re likely not fooling Rover, while in 2012 I proved that beating the body scanners takes no more than a sewing kit.
  3. Dogs are far less invasive than the body scanners.  These dogs are trained to detect explosives only, while a body scanner is set to alert on anything on your body, including medical devices, scars, hygiene products, your baggie of weed, etc. Dogs are a targeted search only for the stuff the TSA should actually be looking for.

Instead of spending nearly $2B by now on technology that people hate because they are slow, invasive, and emit poorly-studied radiation… instead of fighting tons of legal battles… instead of making them perhaps the most hated federal agency on the planet… they could have just done this 5 years ago.

Let’s hope their pilot program goes well and the body scanners are relegated, along with a pat-down option, to those who fail Fido’s nose.

Is It *Really* Impossible To Get A Gun License in NYC? (Part I)

If you ask a random person living in NYC how hard it is to get a gun license, they will probably tell you that if you want a license to carry a gun, you have to be a cop, work as a security guard, or “know someone” (i.e., be rich and have donated to the right politician or organization).  The thing is, I couldn’t find anyone who didn’t fit into one of those categories who had actually tried, and in light of semi-recent Supreme Court rulings that the 2nd Amendment is an individual right, not limited to “militias,” I figured it was about time to put it to the test.

What you need to apply for a NYC gun license — to start!

I gathered all the forms together, went down to “1 Police Plaza” — the NYPD headquarters in lower Manhattan, and was promptly told I could not apply because I didn’t have an ID card issued by the New York DMV.  Apparently a Florida driver’s license, a social security card, and a U.S. passport were insufficient to prove who I am, even though all of those are sufficient to get the New York DMV to give me an ID card.

But, no problem.  A New York ID lasting for 8 years turns out to be a $12 investment.  My complete, “accepted” (as in, they were willing to consider it) application is pictured above: 1 three-page application, 1 letter of necessity, 1 letter explaining any checkboxes you may have checked that need explanation (Ever had a speeding ticket?  That needs to be explained!), 1 letter from your roommate approving of your license or an affidavit that you have no roommate (My 2nd Amendment rights are contingent on my roommate’s permission?), 1 affidavit from someone willing to take possession of my guns if I die, 2 photos, 1 New York ID, 1 U.S. passport, 1 social security card, and $429.75.  Oh, and a copy of my business tax return.

Business tax return?  In order to apply to carry a firearm in New York City, you must provide a business reason.  This seems likely to be ruled unconstitutional if challenged today in light of the new Supreme Court rulings, but I happen to run a business for which I have the necessity to get a gun license: I am a civil rights advocate, I need a license to exercise my civil rights, and thanks to your donations over the last 5+ years, I file a business tax return annually.

The application also asks a lot of extremely personal and seemingly irrelevant questions.  Have you ever been fired from a job?  Taken a sedative medication or pain killer (you’re checking yes if you’ve ever had surgery)?  Testified before Congress?  The NYPD wants to know.  If your answer to any of the above is yes, add that to your explanation form next to your speeding ticket explanation.  For all of these questions, I checked no box and explained on the form that I refuse to answer because they are irrelevant.

But, apparently that’s good enough to get the app in processing.  After everything is paid for, fingerprints are taken (included in that $429.75 fee, which, by the way, is non-refundable if you are denied a license, and lasts for only 2 years assuming you do).  A few days later (shockingly promptly), I get a letter from the officer assigned to examine my case:

Corbett Gun License App Reply (.pdf)

The reply is a request for *25* more documents that the NYPD needs to complete my application.  Some of the highlights include:

  • 3 letters of recommendation, notarized and signed by people who know you for at least 5 years but are not family members
  • The original court records for any of those speeding tickets you listed on your application
  • A letter from your doctor describing your mental illness (funny, since I checked “no” on the “is a doctor treating you for a mental illness” box on the app)
  • 6 months of bank withdrawal slips
  • Pictures of your business, inside and out
  • A whole lot of tax records

I’m really good at paperwork, so I compiled everything (or explained why I cannot, or will not, be getting them a particular document).  The letter says that once I do that, I should call Police Officer Thomas Barberio.

So I called.  And I called.  And I called…


No less than 10 times on 7 different days.  Officer Barberio is, it seems, never around.  So I sent a fax.  No reply.

For Part II of my journey, I head back to 1 Police Plaza to see if we can find Officer Barberio or his supervisor.  Stay tuned.

Fighting for civil rights in court is expensive!  Want to contribute to the fight against government assholery? Donate via PayPal, Venmo, Chace QuickPay, Bitcoin, or check

Fully Briefed: Can The TSA Force You To Speak To Fly Home?

lipssealedAfter being told that I wouldn’t be allowed to board a flight back to the U.S. without cooperating with a “security interview” last December, I filed suit against the TSA in February challenging this program on Fifth Amendment grounds.  We all have the right to remain silent AND the right to return to our home country, and we should not have to give up one to use the other.

The TSA has already backtracked on the issue, telling the court that whoever told me I’d be denied boarding (a TSA representative, an airline representative, and the interviewer himself) was mistaken.  So, in some ways, this issue is already won, but the problem remains that the TSA’s written policy is ambiguous as to what should happen to someone who refuses to speak, and so airlines and their interviewers may not know that the TSA’s position (now that they’ve been called out on it in court) is that denied boarding is not required.

The case is now fully briefed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which means that all sides have spoken and the court may now rule on the matter.  Or, it may order additional argument, orally or in writing, before it makes its decision.  There is no set timeframe, but it will likely take “a few months.”

The docs:

Corbett v. TSA III – Opening Brief (.pdf)

Corbett v. TSA III – Administrative Record, Vol. 1 (.pdf, 14 MB)
Corbett v. TSA III – Administrative Record, Vol. 2 (.pdf, 18 MB)

Corbett v. TSA III – Respondent Brief (.pdf)

Corbett v. TSA III – Reply Brief (.pdf)

Fighting the TSA in court is expensive!  Want to contribute to the fight against TSA assholery? Donate via PayPal, Venmo, Chace QuickPay, Bitcoin, or check



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