This is Part III of a series of investigative reports we are publishing on the Florida Department of Revenue (FLDOR), the mandated unemployment business tax and a lawsuit by Florida small businessman Don Baldauf. We will examine the potential impact of this lawsuit on taxation and regulation in the sunshine state. Read Part I and Part II. To read the full text of the Baldauf lawsuit go here.
Don Baldauf a Florida small business owner was denied the right to represent himself, yet convicted terrorist Major Nidal Hasan represented himself? How can this be?
Don Baldauf filed a lawsuit against Florida Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and twenty-three others for $18 million. Baldauf stated, “I am suing because I have been deprived of my US Constitution Seventh Amendment rights as a Florida small businessman. Each and every one named as defendants is accused of taking part in preventing me from settling this taxation controversy with the State of Florida by invoking my right to a jury trial. What reason was I given for not being able to exercise my right to a trial by jury? Because King George III says I do not have that right. Yep, according to some of the plaintiffs 1776 never happened!” Baldauf started a website titled JuryTrialRights.com where interested individuals may view the lawsuit and related documents.
Baldauf had his first hearing on January 17, 2014. Baldauf decided to represent himself at the hearing. Twelfth Circuit Court Judge Charles E. Roberts (pictured) presided at the hearing. A motion to deny Baldauf’s right to represent himself was filed on behalf of Governor Scott, et al. At the hearing representing the defendants was Albert J. Bowden, Senior Assistant Attorney General for State Programs Litigation.
Baldauf represented his company Epitome Systems, Inc., of which he is the sole employee, founder, CEO and the injured party. Bowden argued that Epitome must be represented by counsel according to legal precedent. The property owned by Epitome, the money seized by the State of Florida to pay the unemployment business tax, was the companies, not Baldauf’s . It is the corporation, not Baldauf, that must be represented by a licensed Florida attorney. Bowden argued that the complaint was inappropriately filed and he asked Judge Roberts to strike the complaint.
Baldauf argued that a jury should decide if he, as the only employee of his sole proprietorship company, is the injured party. Can the state force Don and Epitome to participate in the unemployment business tax program that he, Baldauf, cannot benefit from? Baldauf stated, “A jury should decide not a pre-trial hearing. I have represented my company in other cases with docket numbers. Taxes were leveled against the corporation, which is me.”
Judge Roberts ruled that Baldauf does not have standing. Baldauf’s corporation cannot be represented by Baldauf. Judge Roberts then granted Bowden and defendants motion to strike the claim. The hearing was not recorded, something that Baldauf takes exception to.
After the hearing Baldauf stated, “Judge Roberts ruled against me stating he ‘was bound by the law to do so’ even though he and Assistant AG Bowden admitted there was no law passed by the state legislature saying that I could not represent the company. The ‘law’ the judge referred to were case opinions Assistant AG Bowden presented as ‘the law’ even though the Constitution of the State of Florida, Article III, Section 6 is very clear that every ‘law’ must be passed by the legislature. This was even after I made my subtle warning that following the case opinion could make Judge Roberts another defendant in the case.”
“The judge also made the ruling after I offered to drop Epitome as a plaintiff and leave me as the plaintiff but Judge Roberts denied that stating that ‘I was not injured at all,'” noted Baldauf.
The bottom line: Florida small business owners, e.g. a sole proprietors, cannot represent themselves. They must hire a Florida licensed attorney to represent them at their own expense. They are subject to taxation without representation.
Baldauf stated he will appeal the ruling and be represented by a Florida licensed attorney.