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CDA mayoral candidate: Not taking the 14th

Josh Arnold, who entered the race for Coeur d’Alene mayor this week, said he’s concerned about the size, tone and responsiveness of government.

Those concepts probably wouldn’t distinguish Arnold, a Republican precinct leader and 30-year-old planner for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, from most other candidates, or from many residents of North Idaho.

But here’s one that might: Arnold’s view of the U.S. Constitution, and the authority local government has or doesn’t have over him, resulted in a scuffle in Kootenai County court that required five bailiffs to restrain him. One of those bailiffs wound up with a fractured elbow, and Arnold was cited for contempt of court.

In March, Arnold was in Kootenai County Magistrate Judge Robert Caldwell’s court for a hearing on two counts of misdemeanor child injury. When Caldwell called for him to come up, he refused, saying he was not a citizen under the 14th Amendment and thus not subject to the court’s jurisdiction.

It’s an argument that some people who call themselves patriots or constitutionalists make against submitting to the authority of person elected since the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868. It has to do with a distinction they draw between being a citizen of the United States or a citizen of a specific state. It can be a complicated and seemingly convoluted debate, but it rarely yields a good result in a courtroom.

When Arnold said he wouldn’t speak to the judge, Caldwell ordered him removed for contempt. Arnold resisted and it took five bailiffs to restrain him, said Chief Bailiff and Jury Commissioner Pete Barnes, who was one of the court officers called in to help.

“He was not going to go to the ground for anything,” Barnes said.

In the scuffle, Barnes’ elbow was fractured. He had to wear a brace, and was on light duty for a while.

Barnes has heard arguments like not being a 14th Amendment citizen before during his 22 years as a bailiff. “Probably twice a year we get some group claiming this kind of thing.” But he can’t remember it ever leading to an altercation.

Arnold is still awaiting trial on the misdemeanor charges. He says he can’t talk about the case because it’s pending and could soon “reach a resolution.”

But he doesn’t see an inherent conflict between his constitutional stance against submitting to the authority of some elected officials, and seeking to be an elected official himself.

“If elected, I would be a servant of the people,” Arnold said. “What I’m all about is responsiveness of government.”

Barnes said he doesn’t know if he’d vote for Arnold, because he doesn’t know anything about his political stances. But he doesn’t hold a grudge over the altercation and injury.

“I talked to him afterwards, and he seemed like a nice guy,” Barnes said.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.