The Daily Beast
Meet the Fake Lawyer Who Goes to War for Anti-Mask Restaurants
Constitutional Law Group/YoutubeRick Martin presented a formidable résumé. “Lawyer Rick Martin ‘The Judge Slayer,’” a biography on his website read. Billing himself as the head of the “Constitutional Law Group,” (CLG), Martin advertised his legal services for businesses that defied anti-COVID-19 measures.“I have put three District Judges, two District Attorneys, and countless law enforcement officers behind prison walls,” he wrote. “We the People need to come together and take back our country from these unlawful criminals.”But it was Martin and one of his clients who went to jail this month. And while his client, a Michigan pizzeria proprietor, is believed to be the first restaurant owner in the state to be arrested over COVID-19 restrictions, the bust was far from Martin’s first time behind bars. Despite presenting himself as a “constitutional lawyer,” Martin is not licensed to practice law anywhere in the United States.Capitol Rioter and ‘Straight Pride’ Troll Stiffs Lawyer, Hits New Rally While Out on BailInstead, he’s an oft-arrested, militia-connected conspiracy theorist dogged by a record of drunk-driving and allegations of golf scams. He’s also the latest figure on the pandemic-era right to run afoul of the law while claiming to be a defender of the Constitution.Contempt of CourtFor months, one of Michigan’s hottest fronts in the COVID culture war was Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria, a small restaurant in the city of Holland that refused to comply with rules on masks and distancing. Marlena’s, named for owner Marlena Pavlos-Hackney, stayed open while Michigan temporarily barred in-person dining, and continued to operate even after its license was suspended as a result.As the battle with Michigan raged (and Pavlos-Hackney was featured on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show), a sign in the restaurant window offered a stern warning to the government.“Notice to all government officials,” it read. “You are in violation of your oath of office by trespassing unlawfully on the property of this business establishment and committing an act of domestic terrorism under Section 802 of the Patriot Act […] You are no longer protected under judicial immunity and are now subject to being arrested and also sued in your private capacity.”The note was signed by Rick Martin of the Constitutional Law Group. When Pavlos-Hackney was arrested on March 19 for allegedly failing to comply with a previous case related to COVID-19 regulations, Martin accompanied her to court, where he allegedly attempted to represent her. But his defense fizzled when a judge noted that Martin was not actually a lawyer. After a terse exchange, Martin was also arrested for contempt of court.Pavlos-Hackney was released from jail days later. Martin, the “constitutional lawyer,” was not.His legal woes go much deeper.The Constitutional Law GroupDuring his arrest, Martin argued that he had not presented himself as a lawyer—merely as legal counsel. But his biography on his pair of near-identical websites, “Constitutional Law Group” and “Rick Martin Lawyer,” suggests otherwise.It is true that Martin does not claim to be an accredited lawyer. In fact, he alleges on his website, attorneys who pass the bar exam (or, as he erroneously calls it, the “B.A.R.”) might be corrupt. “I am not a ‘B.A.R. ATTORNEY’ whose first duty is to the court,” he writes.The “B.A.R.” that Martin references is a conspiracy theory. Popular in sovereign citizen circles, the theory falsely alleges that the bar (an exam that lawyers must pass) actually stands for “British Accreditation Registry,” a shadowy and non-existent organization.Do you know something we should about the far right? Email [email protected] or securely at [email protected] from a non-work device.The Constitutional Law Group, or CLG, takes those pseudo-legal claims to the next level. The group purports to offer assistance to people and businesses fighting anti-COVID measures. Few lawyers staff its ranks. Instead, the firm, such as it is, offers “law advisors” (whose qualifications include “Master Mason,” “oracle,” and “controversial international entrepreneur”), as well as “constitutional doctors” and “constitutional pastors.”Reached for comment, the CLG did not answer specific questions, but offered a statement that read, in part: “Out of his own pocket, [Martin] filed 42 mass tort claims against corrupt governors across the state and for the love of our country he has helped countless people in need. Considering the number of people he has helped and knowing that you cant [sic] please all the people all the time that cannot take away all the selfless acts he has done and is still doing to restore our great Republic.”The group also arranged for an unnamed person to call The Daily Beast from an unlisted number. That person was not immediately able to provide evidence of the tort claims. Martin told the media last summer that he’d filed three such claims in Seattle, but none appear in legal records, and both the defendant and the plaintiff in those cases told The Daily Beast that the cases had never become reality. It is unclear whether Martin has obtained a legitimate lawyer in his arrest in Michigan, and attempts to reach him for this story were unsuccessful.Meanwhile, a Friday post on the CLG’s Facebook suggested the group was seeking representation. “We’re looking for a Constitutional Attorney,” the post read. “Can be a BAR Attorney as long as they’re Constitutional. If you know anyone please message us. Rick is in need of Assistance of Counsel. Thank you.”Whatever its current woes, the CLG appears to have made fast alliances on the fringes. On the CLG’s website, Martin claims to have “started in 1996 as a study group.” However, web records suggest the domain names for “Rick Martin Lawyer” and the CLG were only purchased in May 2020, just as a wave of anti-lockdown protests were sweeping the nation, especially in conspiratorial circles.The group soon hosted events alongside a grab-bag of far-right figures. They include Judy Mikovits (the discredited researcher behind the COVID conspiracy video “Plandemic”), Simone Gold (a hydroxychloroquine-promoting doctor who was arrested for allegedly storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6), and former Graham County, Arizona, Sheriff Richard Mack (head of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, or CSPOA).The CLG also lists Mack’s CSPOA as a “platinum”-level sponsor, and claims that it works “very closely with the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officer’s Association, headed by Sheriff Richard Mack, to provide support, information, resources, and education to every sheriff in America. This is critical, because our sheriffs are the Supreme defenders of the rights of the citizens in their counties.”Partnership with the CSPOA, which counts real sheriffs as members, would be a big deal for an upstart organization like the CLG. But even that “sponsorship” is fake, Mack told The Daily Beast.“We are not sponsors of that, and we have nothing to do with that,” Mack said. He noted that he’d spoken alongside Martin at an event, but that Martin had said little at the time.“Several times I’ve had to rebuke him. People have asked me whether they should use his stuff. I tell them no,” Mack said, adding that he was going to call the CLG and ask them to remove the CSPOA’s logo from their website. “I’m sorry it’s come to this. I just wanted him to do his thing and I’ll do mine.”The CSPOA is not Martin’s only claimed tie to the anti-government right. On Facebook, he repeatedly describes himself as a member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia, leaders of which are currently facing conspiracy changes for allegedly plotting the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.The Oath Keepers could not be reached for comment. Mack said he didn’t know whether Martin was a member of that group, or even a member of the CSPOA.“Anybody can become a member [of the CSPOA]. We’ve kicked a few people out here and there, but very few. I don’t know if we’d kick him out of CSPOA. I don’t agree with him, but I don’t think he’s evil,” Mack said.That said, Mack added, “I’ve run out of patience with him.”A Busy YearThe Capitol attack prompted calls for—and concern about—new domestic terror laws, especially in the case of the Oath Keepers. But Martin, the self-described Oath Keeper, had been accusing the government of “domestic terrorism” for months before the attack. At least four restaurants across the country sought his support in fighting anti-COVID measures. Some, like Marlena’s in Michigan and Apple Bistro in California, posted the CLG’s notices which warned government officials that enforcing COVID restrictions was actually terrorism. (Neither restaurant owner returned a request for comment.)Martin also took on the case of Stag Barbershop in Snohomish, Washington, which famously defied closure orders early in the pandemic. In August, Martin told The Herald newspaper that he’d filed a massive lawsuit on behalf of the shop’s owner Bob Martin (no relation). The lawsuit named Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Microsoft founder Bill Gates as defendants.“Here’s a guy telling us how to do health and he doesn’t have a medical degree,” Martin, who does not have a law degree, The Herald of Bill Gates.But the lawsuit, which Martin claimed to have filed in Seattle, does not appear in the state’s filings. “Our legal counsel have not received any litigation filed by this individual,” an Inslee spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “I did see he previously claimed he filed ‘three mass tort claims in Seattle’ that named the governor, but, eh, I am a skeptic.”Bob Martin, the barbershop’s 79-year-old owner, said he’d heard the Seattle case fell through. “It cost 1,200 bucks to do that,” he told The Daily Beast. “I had people supporting my efforts to file this stuff against our unconstitutional government. People were supporting us for that. So I used those funds. I don’t know what happened to those funds, if Rick got that back or whatever. I don’t know. But it apparently fell through.”He said he expected his barbershop would stay open even without a lawsuit. “It’s going to be a bloody fight, if they want it to come to that,” he told The Daily Beast. “That’s what will happen. We’re ready for it. We’ve got a militia like you wouldn’t believe.”For a brief time, the two Martins lived together, Bob Martin claimed. “He lived in my house in a bunkhouse for three months,” he said. But the live-work relationship eventually cooled.“I chose another person to represent my interests,” Bob Martin said. “I chose another person because Rick had an alcohol problem. He drank a lot of booze and stuff. I didn’t want him representing me.”Past Crimes and Alleged Golf Scams handout Alcohol and allegations on consumer complaint websites have checkered Martin’s past.One of Martin’s former associates cited his criminal record and requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation by him. “He’s a con artist. He’s a habitual liar. He has pretended to be all kinds of things he’s never been. He’s conned people out of money,” she said, claiming she, too, knew him to drink in excess. “I’m surprised to hear he’s even alive, to tell the truth.”On at least four occasions in Texas, Martin was convicted of driving while intoxicated. On another three, he was convicted of driving on a suspended license. Add three convictions for evading arrest, two for being a fugitive from justice, and one for assault (plus three assault cases against him that were later dismissed), and much of Martin’s legal experience appears to stem from his own court cases.Those convictions came to the fore in a years-long internet argument that began on a consumer complaint page in 2009. There, people claiming to be jilted clients accused Martin of running a bogus golf group called the Corporate Golf Association. Despite claiming to be located in Montgomery, Texas, no such organization appears registered in the state.On the Corporate Golf Association’s now-defunct webpage, the group claimed to host premier golf tournaments.“The Corporate Golf Association makes every event stand out,” the page read. “Puts on The Wildest After Parties with Top Live Bands, FREE Beer, Mixed Drinks, and Bar BQ until Closing Time which always goes down well, especially with All of Us feeling like True Winners and enjoying a few moments in The Limelight!”But it’s unclear whether the hard-partying golf group ever hosted a tournament. In a 2009 post on a golf blog, Martin reiterated his offer of free beer, and asked companies to please sign up as sponsors, sometimes for as much as $10,000. On one of his Twitter accounts, he took a more direct approach, asking specific celebrities to golf for him.Oath Keepers’ Best New Hope Is a Lawyer Who Cites ‘Lord of the Rings’“@McConaughey want you to play in golf tournament in Nov. tell how I can inspire you to play,” he tweeted at actor Matthew McConaughey in 2013, days after making a similar plea to Paris Hilton.By 2017, Martin was using the account to tweet GoFundMe links while calling himself a “retired constitutional lawyer.”Martin’s former associate who requested anonymity said that even in the 1990s, he’d represented himself as a golf professional, as well as a Navy SEAL. “He claimed he was friends with Tiger Woods, with all the older golf pros, and he helped them with their lessons,” she said. “Just the most unbelievable lies.” (The CLG email statement alluded to Martin serving “in the special forces” but the group did not return questions about which branch he had served, and when. The CLG associate who called The Daily Beast on behalf of the group stated that Martin had served in the Army, and also suggested the absence of any records might just be a reflection of their secrecy.)As of January 2020, people were still adding grievances to the consumer complaint page about the Corporate Golf Association. The latest complaint, which also accused Martin of trying to move into older people’s homes, noted that “he is now parading himself to be a ‘constitunional lawyer [sic].’”The Constitutional Law Group’s website launched later that year. In recent days, however, the website has undergone discreet changes.Sometime after midday Thursday, the CLG changed Martin’s biography. Where it previously listed his title as “Lawyer Rick Martin ‘The Judge Slayer,’” the page now describes him as “Rick Martin, Assistance of Counsel.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. 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