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After ‘bizarre’ twist, man drops legal case to ban books in Sarasota

Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

A lawsuit against the Sarasota County School Board alleging sexually explicit material in books was dismissed last month when a judge ruled the plaintiff had no legal basis. Then, the plaintiff filed legal papers that took aim at the judge herself.

Robert Louis Craft, 45, initially wanted a sheriff to remove a slate of books including “Gender Queer,” “Ground Zero: A novel of 9/11,” “Kite Runner” and “Michelle Obama: Political Icon.”

Craft is not a resident of Sarasota County and has no children in the school system. His legal filings showed an address in Englewood, outside the Sarasota County line, and his email signature describes him as a philosopher and constitutional common law expert.

Judge Maryann Olson Boehm, on the 12th judicial circuit, ruled in August that Craft had no standing.

“The claim was he was seeking relief under a series of criminal statutes,” said Dan DeLeo, a lawyer representing the Sarasota County School Board.

The suit was tossed because “he didn't have actual injury. And secondly, that this was a political question," DeLeo added. "The legislature has said, 'There's a procedure and you didn't follow it, sir.'”

People who wish to challenge books may do so by filling out a form with the school district.

Craft said he never sought to ban books.

"I only ask that the jury decides whether the books are public or private," he said, explaining that he did not follow district procedure because "those legal processes are their processes inside their corporate system. Inside them, they make rules for themselves. Common law is outside of that system, operating independently."

Craft filed a motion to reconsider, which was denied. Then, on Sept. 9, he filed a “notice of intent to bring action at law” against the judge herself, accusing her of depriving his rights, of fraud and breach of the peace. The documents cited common law acts and statutes dating back to 1706, 1789 and 1854.

His arguments were “that essentially the judge was wrong in a whole series of ways that are bizarre legally,” DeLeo said.

“He filed a document that is crazy and ridiculous, and that says really awful things about the judge and things that are incorrect,” DeLeo said.

According to Craft, a so-called action at law “would have gotten the judge declared that she had actually violated my rights under the Constitution. And then subsequently, she would be removed and never be a judge again, subject to prosecution,” he said in a phone interview with WUSF Thursday.

A “court” of people Craft described only as being “here” in the local area, would have removed her, he said.

Craft declined to elaborate further, saying he was not aligned with any political movement or group.

His legal filing on September 9 concluded with: “I will allow 10 days to respond before the Petitioner shall seek Justice at Common Law by Action at Law.”

Four days before that deadline, Craft said he decided not to go any further.

He said he sent out an email to several dozen supporters on Thursday that read, in part: “I will be withdrawing ALL cases I am associated with, and I will not be pursuing any further Actions in any court of Law, Equity, or Admiralty.

"Just because you can do something, does not mean you should.”

Asked what changed his mind, Craft said in a phone interview: “While I know where to go, and what to do, the consequences of doing it will be destructive.

“I don't want to lead all the people that want to destroy everything where they need to go,” he said.

Boehm’s spokeswoman declined to comment. DeLeo said the case has been a waste of taxpayer money.

“This kind of thing is really unfortunate because it's tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money. Resources that could be better used to purchase school books and pay more teachers,” DeLeo said.

“It's not an insignificant amount of money.”

Copyright 2022 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7.

Kerry Sheridan is a reporter and co-host of All Things Considered at WUSF Public Media.