A Nashville , Tennessee magistrate denied arrest warrants that charged Occupy Nashville protesters were trespassing.

 Tennessee Highway Patrol Officers enforced a last minute trespassing ban at Legislative Plaza this past weekend. Protesters were charged with trespassing and hauled off to visit with the magistrate. After hearing some proof and considering the law , the magistrate denied the arrest warrants and set the protesters free.  The separation of powers was on display. The judiciary upheld the integrity of the law and kept the executive branch from exercising their will on the people. I applaud the actions of the court in enforcing the rule of law. Some magistrates would merely act as a rubber stamp and condone this offensive action by whoever that ordered the arrests.

The teaching point that is important is the role of a magistrate in Tennessee criminal law cases. Rule 5 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that a person under arrest shall be taken without unnecessary delay to a magistrate. The magistrate usually makes a finding of probable cause to issue the warrant.

Other duties of the magistrate included ;

  • Setting bond.
  • Advising the defendant of their constitutional rights.
  • Setting the preliminary examination.


In the occupy Nashville case , the magistrate held that the State of Tennessee did not have the power to authorize a curfew . Nashville Scene reporter Jonathon Meador was arrested and ultimately tweeted his release from jail.

Here is my two cents . First , I guess the right to assembly granted to us in the Constitution does not apply to the Legislative Plaza. Second , the rule of law was enforced by that great thing called the separation of powers. I wonder if Governor Haslam checked his orders out with the Attorney General.