In a rare criminal filing, an antigovernment sovereign citizen in Florida faces a felony charge of unlawful practice of law — pretending to be an attorney in a court of law — by representing parents whose children were taken from them by state authorities.
Ronnie Lee Davis, who heads a cult-like sovereign group called “Bear’s Law and Forensic Science,” advertised that his operation offered the “golden ticket” to help parents whose children were removed from their homes for neglect or abuse by Child Protective Service workers.
He provided those services to “clients” in at least two states, Idaho and Florida, before he was named in a warrant issued earlier this year in Pasco County, Florida, charging him with unlawful practice of law there.
“We at the Bear’s Law and Forensics Team comprehend the law and the plight of parents who have lost their children,” Davis’ advertisement claimed.
The ads boast that Davis and his team “have fought the devils who claim to be helping children [who] in reality are violating federal kidnapping laws.” His ads cite the usual legal-sounding mumbo jumbo — references to the Uniform Commercial Code and the Constitution — frequent hallmarks of sovereign citizens.
The new unlawful practice of law charge in Florida was filed while Davis, 49, was in jail on separately filed charges of armed kidnapping and false imprisonment related to allegations he kidnapped a Texas woman who visited his group’s compound near Polk City, Florida. He lives and provides his legal services from that facility with other members of his “forensic team” who haven’t been charged at this point.
In a plea deal last month, Davis pleaded guilty to lesser charges of battery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He is now in state prison, serving time for those crimes, scheduled for release on Nov. 23.
Because he hasn’t been formally arraigned yet on the unlawful practice of law charge, the details in the formal charging documents aren’t yet public record.
However, Hatewatch learned of the new felony charge after Florida Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper filed a formal complaint with the Florida Bar, contending Davis had represented himself as an attorney to her and a client in a courtroom proceeding.
A copy of that judge’s complaint, subsequently obtained under Florida’s public records laws, says Davis “appeared by phone before the Court on May 26, 2016 and participated in the hearing as the attorney representing the mother.” The mother, whose identity isn’t in the document, believed Ronnie Davis was a licensed attorney after seeing his Bear’s Law advertisements and Facebook posts.
The Florida Bar passed the judge’s complaint on to the assistant state attorneys for the state Sixth Circuit handling matters in Pinellas and Pasco counties.
Davis, it appears, has been active in the sovereign citizen circuit for some time. Earlier this year it was reported that Davis had served as a “judge” for the notorious Bruce Doucette, of Colorado, who claims he’s the “Superior Court Judge of the Continental uNited States of America.”
Doucette set up a network of common law courts in Alaska, Colorado, Florida and Hawaii before being indicted in Colorado on multiple criminal charges, including racketeering, attempting to influence a public servant, extortion, criminal impersonation, retaliation against a judge and tax evasion.
Last year, Davis and his “law and forensics” firm were involved in attempting to intervene on behalf of a Caldwell, Idaho woman. She had been arrested on witness intimidation charges while claiming her children were illegally taken from her by Child Protective Services workers.
After her arrest, Davis pledged in an online video that his “marshals” would seek the arrests of the judge and officers involved in her case.
Meanwhile in Florida, state prosecutors — deluged with other cases related to sovereign citizens, who frequently act as their own attorneys and clog the criminal justice system with bogus and often-nonsensical and baseless legal filings — say it’s fairly rare to charge a sovereign citizen with unlawful practice of law.
The case against Davis may only be the second time prosecutors in Florida have charged a sovereign citizen with unlawful practice of law.
Mark Pitcavage, an expert on sovereign citizens and other extremists, said there have been a handful of other cases in the United States
“Sovereigns get into trouble every once in a while for practicing law without a license but not as often as one might think,” said Pitcavage. “This might be because they get hit with more serious charges instead, in some instances, or it might be because authorities don’t really think about that charge as a possibility.”
Last year, another sovereign citizen, Anthony Williams, who claimed he didn’t need a license to practice law, was convicted in Broward County of unlawful practice of law. Williams had been caught twice driving without a license — one of the most-common techniques of sovereign citizens who don’t believe they need a driver’s license or license plates to drive.
Willliams, claiming to be a “private attorney general,” who represented himself in court, was sentenced to only six months in jail but was placed on probation for 22 years.
In Florida, the state Bar and the State Supreme Court appear to take the unlicensed practice of law seriously.
Just three years ago the Florida Bar issued a written advisory opinion, subsequently embraced by the state’s Supreme Court, making it illegal for non-lawyers involved in Medicaid cases to draft personal services contracts, prepare and execute income trusts or render legal advice about Florida law in Medicaid applications.
“As an attorney, it is particularly disturbing to hear about individuals who are charged with the crime of the unlicensed practice of law,” John R. Frazier, who practices in Largo, Florida, told Hatewatch after being told about the Davis case. Frazier was involved in initiating the process that led to the new advisory opinion about the unlicensed practice of law.
“People who seek legal advice may be facing one of the most difficult situations that they have ever faced in their lives, and they may also be in a very vulnerable position,” said Frazier, who specializes in elder law. “Persons who are not licensed attorneys, who provide legal advice the public, can cause great harm to the public.”
Frazier recalled a New Jersey Supreme Court case in which a state justice wrote, “The amateur at law is as dangerous to the community as an amateur surgeon would be.”