* J.D., University of Wisconsin Law School, Class of 2000; M.A.,
University of Maryland, 1990; B.S.F.S., Georgetown University, 1987.
Thanks to Bonnie Robin-Vergeer, Betty Karweick, Alicia Vander Pas, and
Hans Kestler. For Sheila. See Song of Songs 4:7.
On October 1, 1995, Corporal Victor Kurtz of the Belton, Missouri,
Police Department stopped James Horton for driving without a valid
license plate. n1 Instead, Horton's car bore the following sign:
Public Notice: Non-commercial, private property
CITIZEN OF MISSOURI
In exercise of RIGHT TO TRAVEL streets & highways
Mo. Const. Art. I, Sect. 1,2,10,11,14,22(a),28,31
/RSMo 1.200, 301.120, 301.320
46 Mo. 574, St. Louis v. Grone/
29 Mo. App. 280, Hannibal v. Price
U.S. Constitution Art. IV, Sect. 2; Ammendment [sic] n2
Art. V, IX, XIV n3
Charged with driving without a valid driver's license, driving without
a license plate, and failing to provide proof of insurance, Horton was
tried twice and fined a total of $ 100 plus court costs. n4 He then
filed a pro se appeal claiming, among other things, that a
yellow-fringed flag in the courtroom created a "foreign
power" and that the judge, as "supreme ruler of a foreign
power," did not have jurisdiction over him. n5 Not surprisingly,
he lost. n6
Reading this case in isolation, Horton appears irrational. He
behaved in a way designed to provoke conflict with the police, then
litigated based on theories that most people would dismiss as
ridiculous. But James Horton may not be irrational. Instead, he may be
a Sovereign Citizen, a member of a "common-law" movement
that uses many of the same arguments developed by the Posse Comitatus
and tax protestors. n7 In doing so, the movement's members create
headaches for the legitimate system, both by their voluminous and
complicated pleadings and through their use of tactics such as
common-law liens to harass judges and other public officials.
This Comment describes the legal framework of the Sovereign Citizen
movement with a view toward preparing court personnel to recognize and
respond to Sovereign Citizen litigants. Part I places the Sovereign
Citizens in a historical context, tracing the origins of their legal
theories and tactics from the Posse Comitatus through tax protestors,
the Patriot movement, and common-law courts. Part II analyzes
Sovereign Citizen legal arguments regarding citizenship, legal rights,
jurisdiction of courts, and constitutional interpretation to
demonstrate that they form a complex and internally cohesive structure
that provides the movement's adherents with an intellectual
alternative to mainstream law. Part III examines the legitimate
system's response to Sovereign Citizen litigants and suggests
I. Historical Context and Structure of the Sovereign Citizen
James Horton and his fellow Sovereign Citizens represent the
intersection of four movements: the Posse Comitatus, tax protestors,
Patriots, and the common-law courts. Understanding the mindset, legal
theory, and tactics of the Sovereign Citizens requires an excursion
into the background and theories of each of these movements.
A. The Posse Comitatus
Like many of the legal theories discussed in this Comment, the
Posse Comitatus grew from a common-law concept. n8 The modern Posse
was a radical group based primarily in the American midwest whose
members claimed the right to defend the U.S. Constitution, forming
their own courts and arresting public officials who were acting
unconstitutionally. n9 Its members rejected all authority higher than
the county sheriff, accepted only the first twelve Amendments as
legally binding, and believed that an international Zionist conspiracy
had taken control of the U.S. government. n10 Many members belonged to
Christian Identity, a radical Christian sect that preaches white
supremacy, racial separation, and anti-Semitism. n11 Members of the
Posse argued that "the government is nothing but an expansion of
the Christian church," the Bible is the source of the
Constitution, and God himself establishes law. n12
The Posse was founded in 1969, but it reached the height of its
strength during the farm crisis of the 1980s. n13 A combination of
factors, including the embargo of grain exports to the Soviet Union,
falling land values, and rising interest rates, forced many farm
families into bankruptcy. n14 The Posse's legal theories - presented
in seminars - claimed farmers could refuse to pay taxes on
constitutional grounds and keep federal agents from seizing their
land. n15 Posse leader Roderick Elliot, a former dairy farmer,
conducted constitutional law seminars that advised farmers to file pro
se lawsuits against lenders and the Federal Reserve to void loans,
earn damages, and clog the courts to prevent foreclosures. n16 Other
Posse leaders taught farmers to file common-law liens n17 against the
personal property of bankers, IRS agents, sheriff's deputies, and
other public officials. n18 Often, these liens went undiscovered until
the owner attempted to sell or mortgage the property. Ex-Posse
members, common-law courts, and individuals continue to use this
tactic today. n19
The Tigerton, Wisconsin, chapter of the Posse Comitatus was one of
the most active. Its members established the breakaway township of
Tigerton Dells and claimed the power to create their own court and
administrative systems and issue liquor licenses. n20 Most of the
group's leaders are in prison, and state officials seized the Tigerton
compound land in 1985. n21 A successor group, Family Farm Preservation
(FFP), sold more than 900 packets of bogus blank money orders that
purchasers, including members of the Republic of Texas movement, tried
to redeem for more than $ 64 million. n22 FFP leader Thomas
Stockheimer, a former Posse member, received a fifteen-year federal
prison sentence for his role in the scheme. n23
B. Tax Protestors
In contrast to the Posse Comitatus, the unstructured tax protestor
movement has no common theological, n24 philosophical, or racial
beliefs that lend it cohesion. Nevertheless, it is relevant to
understanding the Sovereign Citizens because many of them litigate
using tax protestor theories.
The intellectual framework of the tax protestor movement comes
mainly from for-profit theorists. n25 Irwin Schiff, a notorious tax
protestor, wrote several books on how to avoid paying federal income
tax and appeared on "Larry King Live," "Tomorrow,"
and more than 500 radio and television shows. n26 Another book, The
Law That Never Was, figures prominently in tax protestor appeals
because of its argument that the Sixteenth Amendment was never legally
ratified and thus nobody has to pay income tax. n27 In some cases,
even attorneys rely on these arguments. n28
Most tax protestors appear pro se, even if they are using the ideas
of the for-profit theorists. n29 Like the farmers who used the Posse
Comitatus theories, some appear to be simply too poor to afford an
attorney and thus must represent themselves. n30 Others, for reasons
that are unclear to the author, appear to be looking for trouble with
the IRS. n31 Whatever the origins of the protestors' actions, courts
repeatedly express frustration with the poorly written and sometimes
Nonetheless, several consistent themes emerge from tax protestor
cases. The Seventh Circuit has identified standard tax protestor
arguments, including challenges to the ratification and
constitutionality of the Sixteenth Amendment, Fifth Amendment
challenges under the takings and self-incrimination clauses,
challenges to the constitutionality of the tax laws themselves, and
claims that wages are not income and that Federal Reserve Notes are
not cash or income. n32
C. Patriot Movement/Militias
Many Sovereign Citizens identify with the Patriot movement, a
loosely organized group whose members believe that the federal
government has become tyrannical in its attempts to control citizens'
lives in areas such as taxation, environmental regulation, gun
ownership, and constitutional liberties. n33 Both Patriots and
commentators disagree about who belongs to the movement and what its
purposes are. Morris Dees, for example, believes that the Patriot
movement is composed of groups that range from militants, such as
militias and Christian Identity supporters, to moderates, such as the
John Birch Society and 700 Club followers who believe that the United
States government is attempting to impose a "New World
Order" on American citizens. n34 Other commentators emphasize the
extreme white supremacist and anti-Semitic views of some Patriot
organizations such as the Liberty Lobby. n35
Nonetheless, it is clear that not all Patriots are militia
supporters, nor are all militia supporters or Patriots linked to the
racist right. n36 Many Patriots eschew violence and profess horror at
incidents like the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. n37 There is no central
Patriot coordinating committee, no widely accepted statement of
beliefs, and no agreement about terminology. n38 A 1997 Southern
Poverty Law Center report identified six militia groups and nineteen
other groups that support the Patriot movement operating in Wisconsin.
D. Common-Law Courts: Patriot Institutions
Many Sovereign Citizens also participate in the common-law courts
movement. Common-law courts are courts organized at the local level
outside the recognized judicial system that purportedly apply
principles of common law to resolve disputes and adjudicate criminal
matters. Like similar courts developed by the Posse Comitatus, n40
common-law courts meet in private homes or community gathering-places
such as bingo halls, restaurants, or bowling alleys. Some courts act
as instruments of harassment; n41 others appear to be sincere attempts
by members to implement their beliefs by freeing themselves from state
tyranny and holding public officials accountable to the people. One
reporter described common-law courts as "the judicial arm of the
Christian Patriot movement." n42 While this assertion is almost
certainly false - the Patriot movement is too disorganized to have a
clearly defined separation of powers or division of responsibilities -
there is a strong connection between elements of the Patriot movement
(including militias) and many common-law courts. n43
The first Wisconsin common-law court appeared in 1995, n44 and
former members of the Posse and Family Farm Preservation have promoted
the formation of other Wisconsin common-law courts. KlanWatch has
identified common-law courts in twelve Wisconsin counties, n45 and
state law enforcement officials view the movement with concern. n46
Still, Wisconsin common-law courts are not particularly active. n47
Common-law courts in other states are more active, particularly
when it comes to intimidating public officials. When a Missouri judge
refused to dismiss a speeding ticket given to a seventeen-year-old
Sovereign Citizen, Our One Supreme Court ordered him to appear before
a common-law court. n48 When the judge did not appear, the common-law
court rendered a default verdict against him and ordered a $ 10.8
million lien placed on his house. n49 Members of the common-law jury
were tried and convicted under a Missouri law that bans the filing of
common-law liens, n50 but the convictions were reversed on grounds
unrelated to the merits of the case. n51 Ohio judges have faced
similar harassment from an Ohio version of Our One Supreme Court,
which meets in a Columbus bingo hall. n52
Common-law courts in other states have attempted to hold public
officials accountable to their standards. The Kansas Territorial
Agricultural Society, a common-law court linked with the Posse
Comitatus, found U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten "guilty and
indicted" at a 1997 Abilene meeting and ordered him to appear
before the "Constitutional Court" for an impeachment trial.
n53 The court met again in the old Supreme Court chambers in Topeka
several weeks later, and a ten-man jury impeached Marten on charges of
holding a rogue court, kidnapping and blackmail, taking property, and
extortion. n54 Legislators blocked the group's subsequent attempt to
return to the chambers to impeach other judges, try the Kansas
Attorney General for holding office illegally, and try the Shawnee
County sheriff for refusing to arrest Bill Graves, whom the court
claimed was impersonating the Governor of Kansas. n55 Similar
activities have occurred in Indiana and Nebraska. n56
E. Common Threads
The behavior of each of these groups takes a baffling form. There
are, after all, easier ways to show dislike of a Federal judge than by
indicting him, trying him in absentia, and denouncing him to the U.S.
House of Representatives. Did the Kansas Territorial Agricultural
Society believe that its process was legitimate and would produce
results? Does a tax protestor who files a return with the notation,
"This means the whole Form, The IRS, and income tax Structure is
Fraudulent and Illegal, doesn't it?" n57 expect the IRS to answer
affirmatively? Did the bankrupt farmers who attended Posse seminars
believe that they were filing legitimate lawsuits? n58 What did James
Horton think would happen when he drove without a license plate?
Like the Sovereign Citizens, whose legal theories are examined in
the following Section, members of each of these groups display
contradictory attitudes towards the federal government and its
institutions. Their philosophies call for a rejection of an
overreaching central government and (in most cases) a return to
control at the local level, but they pursue these theories in the
courts and administrative agencies of the central government. Much of
this seeming contradiction may stem from origins of the legal theories
in the work of for-profit theorists.
II. Legal Theories of the Sovereign Citizen Movement
Sovereign Citizens - so called because their legal theories are
based upon an assertion of personal sovereignty - present a serious
problem for overburdened courts responsible for giving a fair hearing
to all claimants. Like their philosophical predecessors, n59 Sovereign
Citizen legal theorists appear to have studied the law in great
detail. Although many are poorly educated, they buy legal books and
study them with the intent to become learned in the law, and their
writings reflect the breadth of their study. n60 Pleadings filed in
Sovereign Citizen litigation cite a staggering range of case law: A
downloadable Sovereign Citizen brief addressing the right to drive
without a state-issued driver's license takes up thirty-four printed
pages and cites eighty cases as well as the Yale Law Journal,
Blackstone's Commentaries, and the Corpus Juris Secundum. n61 The
author of the on-line Dixieland Law Journal, a Sovereign Citizen
adherent, exhaustively analyzes the history of Norman and pre-Conquest
England to refute the proposition that Sovereign Citizens must present
their names in a certain format to retain personal sovereignty. n62
Analyses of other issues are similarly detailed, even if the writing
is ungrammatical, the style overexcited, and the logic presented in a
confusingly non-linear pattern. n63
The resulting pleadings are dense, complex, and virtually
unreadable. Faced with mountains of paperwork, courts must choose
between spending hours deciphering Sovereign Citizen arguments or
dismissing them out of hand. In an attempt to lighten this burden,
this Section explains the main tenets of Sovereign Citizen legal
theory, which are summarized in the claim that the federal government
"fundamentally" changed the form and substance of
the "de jure" Republican form of Government, exhibited
a willful and wanton disregard for the Rights, Safety, and
Property of others, evinced a despotic design to reduce the
People to slavery, peonage and involuntary servitude, ...
implemented foreign laws, rules, regulations, and procedures
within the body of the Country, ... and retained those of Alien
Allegiance to perpetuate their frauds and to eat out the
substance of the good and productive People of our land. They
have arbitrarily dismissed and held mock trials for those who
trespassed upon our lives, Liberties, Properties, and Families
and endangered our Peace, Safety, Welfare and Dignity. n64
A. The ""Fundamentally' Changed [ ] Form and Substance of
the "De Jure' Republican Form of Government" n65 : Sovereign
and Federal Citizenship
At the heart of Sovereign Citizen legal theory is the belief that
the government has created two forms of citizenship: sovereign (or de
jure) citizenship and federal (or Fourteenth Amendment) citizenship.
Sovereign Citizens are state citizens. Their "inalienable natural
rights are recognized, secured, and protected by [the] state
Constitution against State actions and against federal intrusion by
the Constitution for the United States of America." n66
Terminology is important: A "state" is not the State of
Wisconsin, which Sovereign Citizens argue is a "fictional federal
"State within a state;'" Sovereign Citizen
"states" have identical borders, but they exist
independently of the federal government and draw their sovereignty
directly from their citizens. n67 Sovereign Citizens are United States
citizens only in the sense originally intended by the Constitution,
which is that the citizen of one state is to be considered and treated
as a citizen of every other state. n68
In contrast to Sovereign Citizenship, federal citizenship is much
more limited. Federal citizenship was created by the Fourteenth
Amendment, which, according to the Sovereign Citizens, created "a
citizenship of the United States as distinct from that of the
states." n69 Fourteenth Amendment citizenship is not based on
race; rather, it is a class of persons who are "enfranchised to
the federal government." n70 This class includes all federal
employees and residents of the District of Columbia, Guam, and other
areas of the United States that have not attained statehood. n71 More
importantly, it includes those who have renounced their birthright of
sovereign citizenship by entering into contracts with the government,
receiving benefits from it, and thereby becoming subject to its
Because federal citizens have negotiated away (or, in the case of
Washington, D.C., residents, never possessed) their sovereign rights,
the federal government can regulate and tax the privileges they
receive, such as the privilege of driving or the privilege of owning
property. n73 Federal citizens are not protected by the Bill of
Rights, although the Fourteenth Amendment itself grants them certain
privileges and immunities, including "the right to pass freely
from state to state ... the right to vote for national officers; the
right to be protected against violence while in the lawful custody of
a United States marshal; and the right to inform the United States
authorities of violation of its laws." n74 Currently, federal
citizens possess many of the same civil rights as Sovereign Citizens
because Congress has granted them, but Congress can rescind them at
any time. n75
"[A] Willful and Wanton Disregard for the Rights, Safety, and
Property of Others" n76 : The Rights of the Sovereign Citizen
In general, Sovereign Citizens come into contact with the
legitimate court system for offenses that are surprisingly ordinary.
Most are not arrested for murder or grand larceny; rather, they appear
in court for violating child support orders, n77 zoning regulations,
n78 or traffic laws. n79 The willingness of Sovereign Citizens to
engage in pitched legal battles over trivial matters suggests that
they value their rights highly and creates problems for courts that
are unprepared to devote substantial time and resources to matters
that usually are resolved quickly. This Subsection outlines a few of
the important rights.
Sovereign Citizens claim an inalienable right to travel; that is,
the right to travel over public roads without the necessity need to
register their cars, display license plates, obtain driver's licenses,
or conform to traffic laws. n80 Sovereign citizens concede that the
government has a right to require licenses for vehicles driven in the
"ordinary" use - vehicles driven for commercial purposes -
but not to regulate vehicles driven in the "extraordinary,"
or personal, use. n81 Sovereign Citizens view traffic citations as
violations of their constitutional rights based both on the right to
travel and the belief that the common law recognizes only crimes that
occur when there is damage to a person or property. n82
Sovereign Citizens likewise consider the right to own property to
be an inalienable right. This right has two important implications for
Sovereign Citizen tax theory. First, the owner of real or personal
property cannot be taxed simply for owning the property. n83 Taxes on
real and personal property are government regulations that conflict
with this inalienable right and therefore are unconstitutional. n84
Secondly, Sovereign Citizens own the labor of their own hands. n85
"No individual, group, or majority has a right to the labor,
ideas, production, or property of a Free Sovereign Citizen, or any
part thereof, without prior consent or agreement." n86 Thus,
Sovereign Citizens echo the earlier (and unsuccessful) tax protestor
argument that income tax is illegal because it is taxing wages
received in return for labor.
Coupled with the inalienable right to own property is the
inalienable right to defend it. The Second Amendment does not protect
federal citizens regardless of where they live; they are not allowed
to own handguns under District of Columbia law and must register any
other guns. n87 Sovereign Citizens, on the other hand, enjoy the full
protection of the Bill of Rights and thus can own guns and other
weapons without hindrance. n88 As their frequent association with
militias suggests, Sovereign Citizens consider the right to keep and
bear arms an inalienable right not subject to regulation by the
federal government or states. n89 This includes the right to defend
themselves against aggression from any quarter, including the
government: "Free Sovereign Citizens have the right to defend and
protect themselves and their property against coercive aggression, and
to contract with others to assist them. The authority of
voluntarily-chosen agents to defend or protect Citizens and/or their
property is strictly limited to that defense or protection." n90
Sovereign Citizens also believe that their status confers upon them
"full civic right." n91 To them, this term means that a
Sovereign Citizen has the inalienable right to hold any political
office, including judicial offices generally reserved for lawyers. n92
For this and other reasons, Sovereign Citizens eschew the legitimate
court system and turn instead to common-law courts that allow any
Sovereign Citizen to serve as judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, or
juryman as long as he is not a lawyer. n93
"[A] Despotic Design to Reduce the People to Slavery, Peonage
and Involuntary Servitude" n94 : The Contractual Nature of
Sovereign Citizens believe that the federal government has hidden
the truth about the Fourteenth Amendment for 132 years because the
people would revolt if they knew they had been relegated to an
inferior federal citizenship. Still, Sovereign Citizens claim that the
federal government has extended this inferior citizenship from its
legitimate holders, the residents of the District of Columbia, to
almost everyone. This Subsection describes how.
In an attempt to avoid participating in the social security system,
John Valldejuli argued that the federal government creates an inferior
class of citizenship through the use of contracts:
Plaintiff claims he was fraudulently induced into signing a
"contract' with the Social Security Administration when he
was eleven years old, and now he seeks to void that contract.
Plaintiff also makes several additional allegations in his
complaint, including the following: that he is not a citizen of
the Federal United States, but a natural sovereign citizen of
the United States not subject to the Social Security system;
that it is unlawful for anyone to issue anything identifying him
by his social security number; and that requiring Plaintiff to
have a social security number denies him the right to work. n95
Like many other Sovereign Citizens, Valldejuli argued that the federal
government had fraudulently induced him to enter into a contract with
it and that, by doing so, the government had relegated him to the
status of federal citizen. n96 Sovereign Citizens see these contracts
as the primary instrument by which the federal government usurps
sovereign citizen status. Once the Sovereign Citizen contracts with
the federal government, he unknowingly surrenders his personal
sovereignty and agrees to be bound by the illegitimate federal law.
As Valldejuli suggests, Sovereign Citizens see the social security
system as one of the primary federal contracts. They view the social
security system as a license granted to work in the United States (the
federal United States, that is) under the Trading With the Enemy Act.
n97 Applying for a social security number tells the federal government
that the Sovereign Citizen is repudiating his state citizenship to
apply for inferior federal citizenship and is prima facie evidence
that the applicant has "voluntarily entered into a voyage for
profit or gain in negotiable instruments and maritime
enterprise." n98 In accepting a social security number that does
not belong to him, the Sovereign Citizen has sold his birthright of
freedom to the federal government. n99
Under Sovereign Citizen legal theory, the Social Security Act was
also the first step in creating federal zones within the states. They
believe that the creation of ten social security districts that
encompassed all the states created a fictional federal jurisdiction
that extended to all living within them. n100 Other federal zones were
created through the 1940 Buck Act n101 and the ZIP code program. n102
Interestingly, these are not physical zones. A Sovereign Citizen can
reside within an area that is part of a social security district or
that has a ZIP code, but he does not come under federal jurisdiction
unless he contracts with the government to become part of it. The
federal government can establish such a contract by getting the
Sovereign Citizen to accept mail with a ZIP code or street address on
it n103 or mail sent to general delivery with an improper state
Similar problems pertain to personal names because Sovereign
Citizens claim to believe that use of the wrong name can create a
fictitious persona under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
Each name used, even if the difference is an abbreviation or omission
of a middle name, creates a different persona, and the consequences
can be disastrous. n105 A name printed in all capital letters, for
instance, creates a fictitious corporate persona, and someone who
responds to a document addressed that way accepts the
characterization. n106 Some Sovereign Citizens further argue that
names must be spelled with initial capitals only and with a comma or
semicolon between the middle and last name. n107
Sovereign Citizens identify additional fraudulent concerns. Any
government-issued identification redefines the holder as a legal
fiction because the government itself is a legal fiction. n108
Registering an automobile conveys ownership to the state and puts the
former owner in the position of leasing the state's vehicle by paying
the registration fee. n109 Registering children at birth - the process
by which one receives a birthh certificate - makes them "federal
children" and forms a constructive trust in which the parents
become the trustee, the child becomes an asset of the trust, and the
state becomes the principal beneficiary of the trust. n110
D."Foreign Laws, Rules, Regulations, and Procedures Within the
Body of the Country" n111 : Admiralty Law and the Uniform
According to Sovereign Citizen theorists, the Constitution
recognized three types of court jurisdiction: law, equity, and
admiralty. n112 Jurisdiction in law refers to common law, which
requires an injury to a person or property before a crime or tort is
committed. n113 Equity jurisdiction requires a written contract. n114
Admiralty jurisdiction, once limited to the high seas, has
illegitimately expanded to include international contract and has both
civil and criminal penalties. n115 All federal district courts are
courts of admiralty that are not bound by the Constitution when they
sit in admiralty. n116 Statutory law, which is antithetical to the
Sovereign Citizen interpretation of common law because it imposes
penalties for crimes that do not injure people or property, is
enforced under admiralty jurisdiction. n117
The court indicates its admiralty jurisdiction by flying a
yellow-fringed military flag, thus signifying that the Constitution
does not protect those who come before it because they are under the
jurisdiction of a foreign power. n118 Judges who sit under such a flag
and serve as the representative of a foreign power commit treason,
giving cause to the offense of attempting by overt acts to
overthrow the government of the state to which the alleged
offender owes allegiance and of betraying the state into the
hands of a foreign power .... The placement of yellow fringe on
a title 4 U.S.C. 1 American flag is mutilation and is not
representative of any county or constitution in the world
creating a foreign power under the law of the flag within the
sanctuary of the bar. The sanctuary is neutral foreign territory
controlled by the law of the flag. Any flag not the ... American
Flag of Peace will deny the U.S.A. [sic] proper party of all
u.s. of A. [sic] constitutional rights without the due process
of law. A proper party is injured by fraud ... because the actor
judge is the supreme ruler of a foreign power jurisdiction
without a constitution. The constitution of the united [sic]
States of America would have protected the proper party before
the court. n119
Sovereign Citizen litigants argue that any action taken under the
yellow-fringed "American flag of war" is a deprivation of
due process because they are denied their constitutional rights. n120
When that fails, they invoke the "American flag of peace"
(the standard, unfringed flag) in other ways: n121
It has been this Court's experience that not only will all
the papers submitted by this and similarly situated plaintiffs
have the unoffending American flag of peace affixed to the first
page, but in the event the plaintiff appears before the court,
the plaintiff will also be personally adorned with the
unoffending flag. The more demure plaintiffs settle for wearing
a small flag pin on their collar or lapel. Other, more
gregarious plaintiffs will place a desktop flag display on
counsel's table or pin a large American flag of peace to their
chest. Apparently, even though the courtroom may be displaying
the offending yellow fringe flag, the plaintiffs' shrouding in
the unoffending American flag of peace acts as a talisman of
sorts to protect the plaintiff against jurisdictional conversion
and somehow secure the plaintiff's "common law"
constitutional rights. n122
Under admiralty law, the Uniform Commercial Code (U.C.C.) has replaced
the substantive common law. n123 The U.C.C. provides the basis for the
federal government contracts that bind people into federal citizenship
because, according to the Sovereign Citizens, it allows the government
to enforce a contract based only on a party's acceptance of the
benefits of the contract. n124 Thus, the federal government offers the
benefit of driving on public roads to a Sovereign Citizen; by applying
for a driver's license and receiving the benefit, the Sovereign
Citizen has entered into a contract under the U.C.C. that obligates
him to assume federal citizenship although he is unaware of the
According to the Sovereign Citizens, the U.C.C. also provides a way
to disclaim the obligation. They claim it is possible to reserve
rights in the common law under U.C.C. 1-207 and escape the trap of
statutory jurisdiction: n125
U.C.C. 1-207 gives you access to common law on any contract
you sign using the policy stated in there. In court, what you
are claiming is that you have reserved your common law right not
to be compelled to perform under any contract that you have not
entered knowingly, voluntarily, and intentionally. It also
indicates that you do not accept the liabilities associated with
the compelled benefits of any unrevealed agreement, such as
becoming an accommodation party to the national debt in exchange
for "social security benefits." n126
Thus, Sovereign Citizens who fear contracting with the federal
government will write "U.C.C. 1-207" on any materials
involved, including driver's licenses, websites, and banknotes. A few
Sovereign Citizens counsel avoiding the U.C.C. altogether because it
is private law between merchants owned by an east coast law firm. n127
"Retaining Those of Alien Allegiance to Perpetuate Their
Frauds and to Eat out the Substance of the Good and Productive People
of Our Land" n128 : Lawyers and the Original Thirteenth Amendment
Dislike of lawyers is hardly unique to the Sovereign Citizens, but
their theories carry it to new extremes. Sovereign Citizens do not
allow lawyers to practice in common-law courts because lawyers are not
citizens. n129 As members of the American Bar Association, a
"private club from England," n130 they spearhead a
long-standing conspiracy to betray the U.S. to England. n131
According to the Sovereign Citizens, the original Thirteenth
Amendment, ratified in 1819, read as follows:
If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim,
receive, or retain any title of nobility or honour, or shall
without the consent of Congress, accept and retain any present,
pension, office, or emolument of any kind whatever, from any
emperor, king, prince, or foreign power, such person shall cease
to be a citizen of the United States, and shall be incapable of
holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of
This amendment was actually proposed in 1810. n133 By 1812, it was one
vote short of ratification. n134 Fearing passage of the amendment
(according to the Sovereign Citizens), British interests provoked the
War of 1812, during which they destroyed the Library of Congress in an
attempt to obliterate it. n135 In 1819, when Virginia supposedly
ratified it, British bankers attempted to destroy the state's economy.
n136 Although the Thirteenth Amendment thus became law, a conspiracy
of lawyers managed to keep it from becoming publicly known until the
U.S. Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln permanently suppressed it as part
of an agreement to keep Britain from entering the U.S. Civil War on
the side of the Confederacy. n137
Sovereign Citizens view the original Thirteenth Amendment as vital
for two reasons. First, it excludes persons who hold titles of
nobility from American citizenship. n138 Upon appointment to the bar,
lawyers receive a title of nobility - "esquire" - that
strips them of their citizenship. n139 Second, it prohibits "honours."
Sovereign Citizens argue that this prohibition would "ensure
political equality among all American citizens, by prohibiting anyone,
even government officials, from claiming or exercising a special
privilege or power (an "honor') over other citizens." n140
Such a provision would eliminate immunities from lawsuits for judges
and elected officials, and it would prohibit the passage of special
interest legislation. n141
F. Reclaiming Sovereign Citizenship
The loss of Sovereign Citizenship is not permanent. Enslaved
federal citizens can reclaim their sovereign status, but only by
separating themselves from every benefit offered by the federal
government as an inducement to contract. Required actions include
filing a notice of intent to reclaim Sovereign Citizenship; filing a
declaration of sovereignty; n142 taking and filing an oath to one's
state; n143 filing a notice that one is using Federal Reserve notes
under protest (or better, not using them at all); n144 revoking
driver's licenses, motor vehicle registrations, gun registrations,
marriage licenses (but not the marriage contract), birth certificates,
application for a Social Security number, union memberships, status as
an employee, and voter registration; disclaiming private or public
pension benefits, including Social Security benefits; closing credit
card and bank accounts, except those through banks that are not
guaranteed through the FDIC; paying off all loans; removing children
from schools that accept public money; and refusing all mail that
carries a ZIP code. n145
The mindset of Sovereign Citizens is fascinating. They believe that
the government has systematically and despotically acted to deprive
them of their rights by illegally inducing them to enter into
contracts, declaring a secret national state of emergency, and selling
their children to the International Monetary Fund. At the same time,
they profess to believe that this same government will obey its own
laws and no longer exercise jurisdiction over them once they have
reacquired their sovereign status. Some (although certainly not all)
of the examples cited in this Comment represent people who have taken
the above steps in good faith and really expect the government to
leave them alone.
G. Sovereign Citizen Motives
Like the legal theory of the tax protestor movement, much of
Sovereign Citizen legal theory is generated with profit in mind. n146
Sovereign Citizen websites bulge with materials to help one regain
Sovereign Citizen status and stop paying taxes. Examples include The
Complete Book on Sovereign Citizenship ($ 60), n147 A Treatise on
Sovereignty: Individual, State, and Federal ($ 79.95), n148 and
membership in the National Commodity and Barter Association ($ 495 for
the first year, which includes the six-volume Freedom Books). n149
Those seeking instruction can enroll in George Gordon's School of
Common Law (tuition is one ounce of gold per week) n150 or in a more
sophisticated program such as that offered by the Supreme Law Firm:
Founder Paul Andrew Mitchell ... has spent the past eight
years doing a detailed investigation of the United States
Constitution, federal statute laws, and the important court
cases. Writing under several pen names, Mitchell's work has
reached all the way into the U.S. Supreme Court, which adopted
"the federal zone" as a household word in their
sweeping 1995 decision in U.S. v. Lopez. His massive book
entitled "The Federal Zone: Cracking the Code of Internal
Revenue" was first published in 1992, and became an instant
underground success for its lucid language and indisputable
Mitchell has litigated important cases in state and
federal courts, including the case of People v. Boxer, which
established that the so-called Sixteenth Amendment was a massive
fraud upon the American People. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer fell
totally silent in the face of Mitchell's pleadings in that case.
In addition to profit, Sovereign Citizen legal advice often advocates
tactics for their harassment value. Theories are argued and appealed
based not on their legal value but rather for their nuisance value in
the hope that courts and prosecutors will simply give up. n152
Websites advise Sovereign Citizens on how to judgment-proof themselves
n153 and recommend use of a twenty-three-question "Public
Servant's Questionnaire" during any encounter with official
It is more difficult to assess the motives of individual Sovereign
Citizen litigants. Do they litigate these theories to harass public
officials, clog the courts, and delay legal actions that they believe
will end badly for them? Or do they litigate them because they believe
they are true? The distinction may seem pointless to public officials
buried under piles of Sovereign Citizen documents, but it has profound
implications for developing a systemic response to Sovereign Citizen
III. Responses to the Sovereign Citizen Movement
To anyone with legal training, the theories of the Sovereign
Citizen movement may seem absurd. But regardless of what trained legal
minds may think of the theories advanced by the Sovereign Citizens, it
is important that the legitimate legal system find some way to respond
to them. Existing law largely provides the necessary tools to respond
to Sovereign Citizen litigation, but a more fundamental response to
the underlying issues is also required. This Section discusses
potential solutions to the problems that Sovereign Citizen litigants
pose to the court system. It begins by briefly examining responses to
militia and common-law court movements, then discusses responses to
for-profit Sovereign Citizen legal theorists. It concludes with a
discussion of responses to individual Sovereign Citizens through
enforcement of existing laws, use of sanctions and dismissal
mechanisms in the court system, and education.
A. Responses to Militias and Common-Law Courts
In the period following the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building in
Oklahoma City, America saw armed militiamen under every bed and around
every corner. Newspapers, magazines, and television programs broadcast
images of camouflage-wearing, gun-toting madmen organizing and
training. n155 The intervening four years have done little to calm the
nation's fears. Members of militia groups have kidnapped innocent
neighbors, n156 plotted to attack Army installations and the FBI
Fingerprint Laboratory, n157 and armed for war against federal agents.
n158 Persons claiming to be militia members have assaulted government
personnel. n159 Many observers fear that common-law courts, which
often claim close associations with militias, n160 will resort to
violence to enforce their judgments. n161
The response has been state criminalization of many of the
activities of militias and common-law courts. In 1996, the
Anti-Defamation League published a model statute intended to respond
to the full range of common-law court activity. n162 The statute
largely replicates existing protections. Threats against judges and
court personnel are not new, and the tools have long since been
developed to respond to them. n163 Several states have passed laws
allowing county recorders to reject nonconsensual liens filed by
Sovereign Citizens or representatives of common-law courts. n164 Many
of these statutes provide for a streamlined process to remove
common-law liens filed in bad faith. n165 Missouri and Wisconsin have
criminalized simulation of the legal process, and other states
probably will follow suit. n166
B. Responses to For-Profit Sovereign Citizen Legal Theorists
Part II.F described several for-profit generators of Sovereign
Citizen legal theory. Successfully stemming the tide of Sovereign
Citizen litigation requires prosecution of the theorists in the same
way that the federal government has successfully prosecuted tax
protestor theorists. For example, Gordon Buttorff, an Iowa tax
protestor, had conducted a series of meetings in which he and his
partner advised participants to submit fraudulent income tax
withholding forms. n167 Evidence presented at trial showed that
Buttorff had engaged in only one affirmative act other than speaking:
He had provided one witness with a fraudulently completed W-4 form.
n168 Nevertheless, Buttorff was convicted of nine counts of aiding and
abetting people to file false or fraudulent income tax returns in
violation of 26 U.S.C. 7205 and 18 U.S.C. 2. n169 Buttorff argued that
his only participation in the illegal activity was to discuss his
views on income taxes in public and that he was thus protected under
the First Amendment. n170 In affirming his conviction, the Eighth
Although the speeches here do not incite the type of imminent
lawless activity referred to in criminal syndicalism cases, the
defendants did go beyond mere advocacy of tax reform. They
explained how to avoid withholding and their speeches and
explanations incited several individuals to activity that
violated federal law and had the potential of substantially
hindering the administration of the revenue. This speech is not
entitled to first amendment protection and ... was sufficient
action to constitute aiding and abetting the filing of false or
fraudulent withholding forms. n171
The Eighth Circuit upheld the conviction on the same statutes of a tax
protestor who never met one of the people he was accused of aiding and
abetting to file false income tax withholding information. n172 Alton
Moss gave a radio interview in February 1978 in which he described how
to avoid federal withholding tax. n173 Three men, Gronewold, Sanne,
and Vanosdall, heard the interview; Gronewold then taped a March
speech that Moss gave at a local hotel and played it for Sanne,
Vanosdall, Lilienthal, and Spencer. n174 In April, Moss met with four
of the five men (Spencer was not present) and told them he would
defend them if they were accused of violating the law. n175 Convicted
of five counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false withholding
information, Moss appealed on the grounds that his speeches
"(challenge) the constitutionality of the income tax
laws as ... enforced in this country ... ," that he
"espouses a political cause aimed at changing the tax law
in the United States ... ," and that his actions were
"absolutely protected" by the first amendment, any
conviction founded on the present record being "outside the
... perview of ... the laws of this country." n176
Citing Buttorff, the Eighth Circuit rejected this argument. Similarly,
other circuits have upheld convictions of tax avoidance seminar
presenters under the federal conspiracy n177 and mail fraud statutes.
Income tax avoidance is a prominent goal of Sovereign Citizen legal
strategy. This line of cases strongly suggests that the federal
government could pursue Sovereign Citizen legal theorists who advocate
income tax avoidance in seminars, perhaps going so far as to prosecute
them for conspiring with or aiding and abetting people they have never
met. Such prosecutions would deter some activity of the theorists,
although it would not reach activity that is not directed toward
violation of federal laws. n179 Prosecuting authors of Sovereign
Citizen tax avoidance literature would incapacitate some and perhaps
deter others from explicitly advocating tax avoidance.
This strategy addresses a narrow area of for-profit Sovereign
Citizen legal theory because it does not reach theorists who do not
advocate violating federal law. Rice v. Paladin Enterprises, n180 a
recent Fourth Circuit case, suggests that publishers of instructional
materials may in some cases be civilly liable for activity of others
that is based on those materials. n181 Hired killer James Perry
murdered three people following detailed instructions printed in Hit
Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors, a 130-page book
published by Paladin Enterprises. n182 Relatives and representatives
of Perry's victims sued Paladin for wrongful death. n183 For purposes
of summary judgment, Paladin stipulated that Perry followed
instructions from Hit Man, that Paladin marketed Hit Man to attract
and assist criminals, and that Paladin knew criminals would use Hit
Man to carry out murders for hire. n184
The district court granted Paladin's motion for summary judgment
and dismissed the plaintiff's claims, holding that they were barred by
the First Amendment as a matter of law. n185 The Fourth Circuit Court
of Appeals reversed, however, concluding:
Paladin's astonishing stipulations, coupled with the
extraordinary comprehensiveness, detail, and clarity of Hit
Man's instructions for criminal activity and murder in
particular, the boldness of its palpable exhortation to murder,
the alarming power and effectiveness of its peculiar form of
instruction, the notable absence from its text of the kind of
ideas for the protection of which the First Amendment exists,
and the book's evident lack of any even arguably legitimate
purpose beyond the promotion and teaching of murder, render this
case unique in the law. In at least these circumstances, we are
confident that the First Amendment does not erect the absolute
bar to the imposition of civil liability for which Paladin Press
and amici contend. Indeed, to hold that the First Amendment
forbids liability in such circumstances as a matter of law would
fly in the face of all precedent of which we are aware .... n186
The implications of Rice remain unclear. The facts of the case,
including Paladin's stipulation, are so extreme that it is unlikely
that they will ever be replicated. At least one commentator has
suggested, however, that the Fourth Circuit's approach "would
deny protection to instructional speech irrespective of context, if
the words had a tendency to produce harm." n187 If applied
broadly, such an approach would allow victims of Sovereign Citizen
tactics such as filing false liens or harassment to sue those who
develop and promulgate the strategy. It may even be allowable in
criminal proceedings. n188
Whether Rice will be construed narrowly or broadly remains to be
seen, but litigation of any sort against authors of Sovereign Citizen
materials may be impractical anyway. Many of the materials are written
anonymously or under pseudonyms. They are not published by established
publishers like Paladin Enterprises; instead, they are photocopied or
printed for distribution by the author or his associates. They are not
sold through established distribution channels but rather on display
tables at gun shows and county fairs. They do not have ISBN numbers,
and they are not registered with the Library of Congress. They
circulate within small, close-knit groups, and even members of the
group may never know the author.
C. Responses to Individual Sovereign Citizens
Framing responses to the activities of individual Sovereign
Citizens depends in large measure on what one believes they are doing.
Are they troublemakers seeking to clog the courts with frivolous
pleadings and harass government officials? Or are they sincere but
misguided litigants trying to protect the rights that they mistakenly
believe have been taken from them? Most responses to Sovereign Citizen
litigants are based on the assumption that they are troublemakers, but
a comprehensive solution to the growing problem of Sovereign Citizen
litigation requires consideration of the alternative as well. This
Subsection discusses responses to the activities of individual
Sovereign Citizens in three areas: illegal activities, abusive
litigation practices, and activities at the community level.
1. responses to illegal activities
Sovereign Citizen litigation often begins because the Sovereign
Citizen feels he or she has been victimized in some way, whether
through foreclosure, issuance of a traffic citation, or demand for
payment of income taxes. Some Sovereign Citizens fight back through
their institutions or the conventional courts; others fight back with
threats or by filing common-law liens or U.C.C. liens on the property
of their opponents. n189 Criminal and civil remedies are available in
such cases, and states should not hesitate to use them. Slander of
title is a crime in Wisconsin, as it is in many other states. n190
Civil causes of action exist for criminal slander of title n191 and
for filing liens against the real or personal property of public
officials relating to an alleged breach of duty. n192
2. response to abusive litigation practices
Statistics regarding Sovereign Citizen litigation are not
available, but courts regularly confront Sovereign Citizen pleadings.
n193 Judges are required to construe all claims to "do
substantial justice," n194 a responsibility that theoretically is
enhanced when construing pleadings of pro se litigants unfamiliar with
the legal system. Sovereign Citizen pleadings are detailed and
confusing, raising convoluted legal issues and perverse images like
the "usurping octopus of JURISDICTIONAL/AUTHORITY." n195 Not
surprisingly, judges resent being forced to respond to tactics
apparently designed to annoy them or frustrate the administration of
justice. n196 Still, they appear to take the complicated and rambling
pleadings seriously, sifting through the convoluted writing and
bizarre theories to determine whether they raise valid legal
contentions and deciding for them in the rare cases when they do. n197
Mechanisms for dismissal are available, but their use still
requires judges or court personnel to read the complaint to ensure
that it does not contain a valid legal contention. Federal courts may
dismiss a case at any time if the court determines that the action or
appeal is frivolous or malicious. n198 A complaint is frivolous
"where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. [The]
term "frivolous,' when applied to a complaint, embraces not only
the inarguable legal conclusion but also the fanciful factual
allegation." n199 Unlike a dismissal for failure to state a claim
under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, section
1915(e) dismissals do not require notice or an opportunity to amend
before the claim is dismissed. n200 Similar mechanisms are available
in state court systems. n201
Again, no statistics are available, but it seems likely that most
Sovereign Citizen complaints are dismissed as frivolous actions under
28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(1) or the equivalent in state court systems.
Sovereign Citizen suits against judges and prosecutors are virtually
always frivolous because the doctrine of absolute immunity prohibits
suits against them for actions performed in the course of their
duties. As a result, Sovereign Citizens appear in most reported cases
either as appellants objecting to the dismissal of their suits or as
Courts also have an array of sanctions available to use against
abusive Sovereign Citizen litigants. Sanctions in tax protestor cases
can be particularly severe, n202 but federal courts can apply Rule 11
sanctions for frivolous litigation, "[and] if a person should
have known that his position is groundless, a court may and should
impose sanctions." n203 The Seventh Circuit's justification for
sanctions clearly identifies the hope of every court:
People who wish to express displeasure with taxes must choose
other forums, and there are many available. Taxes are onerous,
no doubt, and the size of the tax burden gives people reason to
hope that they can escape payment. Self-interest calls forth
obtuseness. An obtuse belief - even if sincerely held - is no
refuge, noo warrant for imposing delay on the legal system and
costs on one's adversaries. The more costly obtuseness becomes,
the less there will be. n204
Even the Seventh Circuit admits that "the routine use of
sanctions does not deter unless people know what lies in store."
n205 Sanctions also do not deter if the litigant is convinced of the
righteousness of his actions or if he is judgment proof. As a last
resort, federal courts may attempt to control persistent litigants by
imposing a pre-filing review requirement under 28 U.S.C. 1651(a). n206
3. response to community activities
Finally, the need for legal solutions to the problems that
Sovereign Citizen litigation poses must not obscure the need for
other, more fundamental types of solutions as well. Many members of
the Sovereign Citizen and common-law courts movements are deeply angry
at the judicial system. Common-law court members frequently describe
perceived injustices that led them to reject the traditional courts
and turn to their own courts. n207
What if the Sovereign Citizen litigants are sincere? Suppose that
the litigant has paid $ 79.95 for Ken Adler's Treatise on Sovereignty:
Individual, State, and Federal because he cannot afford a lawyer and
has nowhere else to turn. Suppose that he reads it and believes it and
litigates according to its suggestions. What are the obligations of
the court system and individual lawyers to such a person?
Simply put, the court system and individual lawyers must educate.
Where Sovereign Citizen legal theory flourishes, it does so because
people believe that the legitimate court system is not meeting their
needs. The Posse Comitatus was disturbing because its adherents were
not wild-eyed militants but rather stolid midwestern farmers, men and
women who turned to a radical alternative only when convinced it would
enable them to retain their lands legally despite the grim reality of
foreclosure. Many Sovereign Citizens find themselves in similar
situations. n208 They live in rural communities, but these communities
are not isolated from the outside world. They have televisions,
newspapers, and lawyers. People trained in the law can refute
Sovereign Citizen arguments, whether they choose to do so in print, on
the internet, or over bacon and eggs at the local diner, but first
they must understand both the arguments and the people who make them.
Then, they can respond with respect and courtesy, but firmly, with facts and
reality. Point out that there is a legitimate, perfectly
rational explanation for literally every piece of evidence the
Patriots can produce for their theories that the government is
part of a grand conspiracy to destroy the nation. Explain that
the legal arguments they present for their constitutionalist
beliefs have long been answered by real court rulings, many
dating back to the Civil War, and that the web of pseudo-legal
theory the Patriots espouse is a sham with no recognizable
legitimacy, especially not in the body of law as practiced in
America today. n209
Any response to the Sovereign Citizen movement must begin with an
understanding of the movement's origins within a group of largely
rural Americans who feel they have been disenfranchised by America's
court system. While understanding Sovereign Citizen legal theory may
be difficult to ask of anyone, an effective response also requires
awareness of their arguments, logic, and tactics. It is crucial to be
able to identify Sovereign Citizen activities in order to sanction
abusive Sovereign Citizen litigants, prevent the use of destructive
tactics, and thwart for-profit Sovereign Citizen theorists. At the
same time, judges, attorneys, officials, and members of the public
must understand Sovereign Citizen arguments sufficiently to be able to
engage them in a dialogue that will bring them back to the mainstream,
far from the grasping tentacles of the "usurping octopus of
n1. See City of Belton v. Horton, 947 S.W.2d 104, 105 (Mo. Ct. App.
n2. Much of the writing of the Sovereign Citizen Movement contains
erratic spelling and grammar. As a result, this Comment has reserved
"[sic]" for only the most blatant of these errors in its
n3. See Horton, 947 S.W.2d at 105.
n4. See id.
n5. See id.
n6. See id. at 106.
n7. The term "Sovereign Citizen" first appears in a 1978
case, Johnson v. Commissioner, 37 T.C.M. (CCH) 189, 190 (1978)
(rejecting Johnson's claim that an individual sovereign citizen is not
subject to federal income tax). Coherent Sovereign Citizen legal
theory does not begin to appear until the early 1990s.
n8. See 70 Am. Jur. 2d Sheriffs, Police, and Constables 60 (1960).
"The sheriff's authority to command assistance from the immediate
able-bodied, sometimes called a posse comitatus, or power of the
county, was part of his common-law duties, which came along as an
ancient function of the office." Id.
n9. See United States v. Hart, 701 F.2d 749, 750 (8th Cir. 1983).
Common law prohibits citizens from organizing a posse comitatus. See
United States v. Hart, 545 F. Supp. 470, 474 (D.N.D. 1982), aff'd, 701
F.2d 749 (8th Cir. 1983).
n10. See Catherine McNicol Stock, Rural Radicals: Righteous Rage in
the American Grain 171 (1996). "Thus if they were to comply with
any federal regulation - from paying taxes to making social-security
payments or honoring fish and wildlife regulations or even getting a
driver's license - they would be complicit in an international
n11. See Morris Dees & James Corcoran, Gathering Storm:
America's Militia Threat 18-24 (1996) (describing theological
structure and outreach efforts of Christian Identity pastors).
Anti-Semitism was a recurring theme in the Posse's beliefs, as it is
in the belief structures of many Patriot groups. In a theme echoed by
the Sovereign Citizen movement, the Posse urged people to reclaim
their personal sovereignty by returning all government documents
because they legitimized "Jewish fables." See James
Corcoran, Bitter Harvest: Gordon Kahl and the Posse Comitatus, Murder
in the Heartland 27 (1990) [hereinafter Corcoran, Bitter Harvest].
n12. Corcoran, Bitter Harvest, supra note 11, at 26 (quoting
William Potter Gale, a California Posse leader).
n13. See id. at 29. The FBI identified 78 Posse chapters in 1975.
n14. See McNicol Stock, supra note 10, at 156-63. Many had taken
out adjustable-rate loans based on the value of their farmland. See
id. at 157. In the early 1980s, interest rates reached 22 %, while
land values in some areas fell from $ 2,100 an acre to $ 700 an acre.
See id.; Corcoran, Bitter Harvest, supra note 11, at 9. In 1983, the
nation's farm debt was more than $ 215 billion. See id. at 19. In
1987, nearly 17% percent of rural Americans lived in poverty. See id.
n15. See McNicol Stock, supra note 10, at 171.
n16. See Corcoran, Bitter Harvest, supra note 11, at 32-33. Among
other things, Elliot taught that loans written after 1974 were invalid
because they violated the Truth in Lending Act. See id.
n17. A common-law lien is "the right of one person to retain
in his possession that which belongs to another until certain demands
of the person in possession are satisfied. Liens which have been
recognized at common law are in favor of such persons as innkeepers,
farriers, carriers, and warehousemen ...." United States v. Hart,
545 F. Supp. 470, 474 n.9 (8th Cir. 1983).
n18. See Corcoran, Bitter Harvest, supra note 11, at 33-34
(describing the activities of Posse Comitatus member Douglas Hart, who
filed common-law liens against North Dakota IRS agents after they
audited his income taxes).
n19. See, e.g., United States v. Knudson, 959 F. Supp 1180, 1185-88
(D. Neb. 1997) (granting injunction against tax protestor who had
filed retaliatory liens against the property of IRS agents).
n20. See State v. Wickstrom, 118 Wis. 2d 339, 343-44, 348 N.W.2d
183, 186 (Wis. Ct. App. 1984) (affirming Posse member's conviction on
counts of violating Wisconsin statutes that forbid impersonating
public officials). Claiming to be both the town clerk and municipal
judge of Tigerton Dells, Wickstrom threatened the Shawano County clerk
with a lawsuit for failing to provide ballots for township elections.
See id. Wickstrom and tavern owner Donald Minniecheske founded the
township after Minniecheske was unable to get a liquor license. See
Richard W. Jaeger, Organization Grew Quickly: Posse Started in 1974 as
DNR Protest Group, Wis. St. J., Feb. 5, 1994, at 2A.
n21. See Andrew Blasko, Posse Comitatus Can't Sue Village Without
OK, Supreme Court Finds, Wis. St. J., May 21, 1997, at 3B. In 1993,
Tigerton bought the Posse compound for $ 102,000 in back taxes and
turned it into a park. See Susan Lampert Smith, Tigerton Overcomes
Notorious Past, Wis. St. J., Mar. 23, 1997, at 8A.
n22. See Richard W. Jaeger, Group Uses Law as its Weapon, Wis. St.
J., May 22, 1994, at 10A; Thomas Korosec, We Are the R.O.T., Dallas
Observer, May 8, 1997. This tactic is not unique to FFP. Purveyors of
a Texas scheme sold blank "Certified Money Orders" backed by
fraudulent liens with the following instructions:, "Warning: Just
like the children's story about the emperor's new clothes, do not
mention that your current credit money, the negotiable instrument, is
pretend money. Only speak of the bank's negotiable instruments as
being pretend money." United States v. Mikolajczyk, 137 F.3d 237,
239-40 (5th Cir. 1998).
n23. See Former Posse Leader Gets 15 Years, Wis. St. J., Apr. 10,
1997, at 3C.
n24. Some tax protestors claim that religion prohibits them from
paying taxes. See, e.g., McLaughlin v. Commissioner, 832 F.2d 986, 987
(7th Cir. 1987) (holding that religious scruples against
"entering into contracts with inhabitants of the land," a
reference to Old Testament prohibitions against dealing with
Caananites, did not excuse payment of income tax). Similar language
appears in non-tax protestor pleadings. See, e.g., State v. Davis, 745
S.W.2d 249, 250 (Mo. Ct. App. 1988) (dismissing Davis's claim that
religion forbade him from "covenanting" with anyone but God
and thus from obtaining a driver's license).
There is no common tax protestor theology akin to that of the
Posse. See, e.g., Kessler v. Commissioner, 87 T.C. 1285, 1293 (1986)
(holding that expenses of sun-worshiper's pilgrimage to Puerto Rico
were not deductible as a religious expense); Markovsky v.
Commissioner, 50 T.C.M. (CCH) 120 (1985) (claiming that "because
1040's, W-4E's, W-4's, and other Income Tax forms are Confessions,
which are enforced by Inquisitorial procedures that you and yours are
engaged in the UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF (Catholic) CHURCH LAW").
n25. See United States v. Sloan, 939 F.2d 499, 502-03 (7th Cir.
1991) ("We are less sure of the sincerity of the professional tax
protestors who promote their views in literature and meetings to
persons like Mr. Sloan, yet are unlikely ever to face the type of
penalties incurred by him.").
n26. See Newman v. Schiff, 778 F.2d 460, 462 (8th Cir. 1985).
During one television appearance, Schiff promised to pay $ 100,000 to
any listener who could prove that the Internal Revenue Code required
them to file a tax return. A Missouri attorney tried to, but Schiff
did not pay up. The attorney sued for breach of contract, but the
Eighth Circuit held that he had not accepted Schiff's offer because he
had watched a taped broadcast of the show that aired the following
day. See id. at 462-64.
n27. See United States v. Sato, 704 F. Supp. 816, 819 (N.D. Ill.
1989); United States v. Thomas, 788 F.2d 1250, 1253 (7th Cir. 1986);
Miller v. United States, 868 F.2d 236, 241 (7th Cir. 1989).
n28. See, e.g., Charczuk v. Commissioner, 771 F.2d 471, 476 (10th
Cir. 1985) (assessing fees and costs against an attorney who had twice
previously presented identical meritless arguments to other courts).
n29. See, e.g., United States v. Gerads, 999 F.2d 1255, 1255 (8th
Cir. 1993); Sloan, 939 F.2d at 499; United States v. Saunders, 951
F.2d 1065, 1065 (9th Cir. 1991); Miller, 868 F.2d at 236; McLaughlin,
832 F.2d at 986.
n30. See, e.g., Gerads, 999 F.2d at 1256 (imposing sanctions for
frivolous argument on farm couple who had not paid taxes on farmland
n31. See, e.g., Miller, 868 F.2d at 237-238 ("This appeal
arises from Miller's third attempt to challenge the constitutionality
of the entire federal income tax structure. The genesis of the present
action is Miller's 1984 tax return, in which he chose not to provide
any information regarding his income. Instead, Miller entered either
the word "None' or a double asterisk ("**') after each
question on the return. Miller also typed a note on the return,
explaining that the double asterisks signified his "specific
objection to the question under the 5th Amendment U.S. Constitution,'
and "similar objections under 1, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13 & 14th
Amendments.' Miller also typed on the return that "new evidence,
Certified and Documented, Shows the 16th Amendment was never legally
passed. This means the whole Form, The IRS, and income tax Structure
is Fraudulent and Illegal, doesn't it? Please Advise!'").
n32. See United States v. Cheek, 882 F.2d 1263, 1268 n.2 (7th Cir.
1989) (noting that the Seventh Circuit would never consider such
beliefs objectively reasonable for a good-faith misunderstanding
defense to the charge of willful failure to file federal income tax
returns). The footnote cynically concludes, "We have no doubt
that this list will increase with time." Id.
It has. A list of standard tax protestor arguments now includes the
following: Income taxes are voluntary, see Gerads, 999 F.2d at 1256;
people who receive no benefits or privileges from the government of
the United States are not required to pay federal income tax, see
McLaughlin, 832 F.2d at 987; wages are bartered for labor and thus
deductible because they are "an equal, nontaxable exchange of
property rather than taxable income," Casper v. Commissioner, 805
F.2d 902, 904-05 (10th Cir. 1986); and the IRS has not complied with
the Paperwork Reduction Act, see United States v. Hicks, 947 F.2d
1356, 1358 (9th Cir. 1991), vacated by Alexander v. United States, 506
U.S. 808 (1992).
n33. See Chip Berlet & Matthew N. Lyons, Citizen Militias Can
Become Violent, in The Militia Movement 59, 60-61 (Charles P. Cozic,
ed., 1997). One commentator has described four central ideas of the
Patriot movement: belief in a revocable social contract in which
"The People" have delegated power to the central government;
belief in a sovereign power located in "The People" that can
be reclaimed; belief in the individual right to bear arms; and belief
in the right to revolt against the federal government. See Thompson
Smith, The Patriot Movement: Refreshing the Tree of Liberty with
Fertilizer Bombs and the Blood of Martyrs, 32 Val. U. L. Rev. 269,
n34. See Dees & Corcoran, supra note 11, at 30-31.
n35. See Daniel Junas, Citizen Militias Threaten Democracy, in The
Militia Movement 67, 68-69 (Charles P. Cozic, ed., 1997). The Liberty
Lobby is one of several organizations that operate under the umbrella
of the Legion for Survival of Freedom. Others include the Institute
for Holocaust Revisionism and Noontide Press. See Liberty Lobby, Inc.
v. Dow Jones & Co., 838 F.2d 1287, 1295 n.5 (D.C. Cir. 1988).
n36. See, e.g., Dees & Corcoran, supra note 11, at 200 (noting
that 137 of the 441 militia groups and 368 Patriot groups existing
between 1994 and 1996 had ties to the racist right).
n37. See, e.g., Bertlet & Lyons, supra note 33, at 59-60.
n38. See, e.g., Paul Brinkley-Rogers & Dennis Wagner, Patriot
Movement Gains Momentum, Desperation, Ariz. Republic, Apr. 14, 1996,
at A1 (discussing disagreement among Patriots over the term
"freeman" and describing Patriot ideas as "esoteric and
n39. See Katherine M. Skiba, Southern Poverty Law Center Tracks
Right-Wing Activity: State Extremist Groups on the Rise, Report Says
Wisconsin has 25 Organizations, Up Four from 1996, Officials Say,
Milwaukee J. Sentinel, Apr. 20, 1997, at 16. Wisconsin Attorney
General James Doyle estimated that 200-300 Wisconsin residents are
involved in these groups. See id.
n40. See id.
n41. See, e.g., Farm Credit Bank of Wichita v. Powers, 919 P.2d 31,
32-33 (Okla. Ct. App. 1996) (rejecting contention of "The
Sovereign John Cleveland: Powers" that Our One Supreme Court had
ruled that the district court lacked jurisdiction over a foreclosure
n42. T.C. Brown, Uncommon Justice: Common-Law Courts a Fast-Growing
Forum for "Patriots' Battling the American Government and Legal
System, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Mar. 2, 1997, at 1A.
n43. See Brad Knickerbocker, New Militia Tactic: "Paper
Terrorism,' Christian Sci. Monitor, Oct. 15, 1997, at 1. The ADL
estimates that half of all common-law court members also belong to a
militia in some parts of the country. See ADL Releases Report on
Militia Activity, U.S. Newswire, Apr. 17, 1997. Several Ohio
common-law court members have strong ties to militias. A police
officer attempted to stop Michael Hill, a judge of Ohio's "Our
One Supreme Court," who was driving with a license plate that
read, "Ohio Militia 3-13 Chaplain." Hill drove off, then
stopped and pulled a gun on the officer, who shot him dead. See T.C.
Brown, Martyr for the Cause, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 23, 1996, at
Some Wisconsin common-law courts claim similar connections. Rule 6
of Our Supreme Court of Wisconsin provides, "Our Supreme Court
special terms will be enforced by militia protections vi et armis to
prevent miscarriage of Justice ...." Public Notice: Affidavit of
Publication, Manawa Advocate, June 8, 1995, at 21. Don Treloar, a
justice of the court, was convicted of impersonating a U.S. marshal
when he tried to serve court papers on a Green Bay IRS agent. See Dave
Daley, Man Impersonated U.S. Marshal, Jury Finds He Went to the Home
of an IRS Agent to Help Serve "Common Law Court' Papers,
Milwaukee J. Sentinel, July 1, 1998, at 3. Once head of the Christian
Militia of Wisconsin, Treloar had previously said, "We
extensively cover Wisconsin, and there are no places that are not
protected by the militia in Wisconsin," a claim not supported by
independent investigation. Katherine M. Skiba, Militia Leader Explains
Group's Focus: Anti-Abortion, Pro-Gun Stance Is Consistent with
Constitution, Treloar Says, Milwaukee J. Sentinel, Apr. 22, 1996, at
n44. See Richard W. Jaeger, New People's Court Forming: Rejects
Link to Militant Groups, Wis. St. J., May 7, 1995, at 8A. The court
was formed in the Grant County village of Dickeyville; its justices
were a retired farmer, an employee of a mail-order company, and a mill
owner. Grant County had been home to the Posse's Christian Citizens
Grand Jury, and Family Farm Preservation helped to set up the
common-law court. The justices, however, disavowed any Posse
connections and claimed that they would work within the existing legal
system. See id.
n45. See Skiba, supra note 39, at 16. The counties are Columbia,
Crawford, Grant, Juneau, LaCrosse, Milwaukee, Manitowoc, Portage,
Shawano, Taylor, Trempealeau, and Waupaca.
n46. See id.
n47. See Roy R. Korte, Common Law Movement in America 7
(unpublished materials supporting presentation at Libraryfest Midwest,
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Oct. 8-10, 1998) (on file with the University
of Wisconsin Law Library). A LaCrosse common-law court did, however,
order an assistant prosecutor to appear before it at an Embers
restaurant after he prosecuted a LaCrosse dentist for state tax
evasion. See Katherine M. Skiba, Extremists Take Up the Gavel:
Common-Law Courts Issue Subpoenas, Liens, and Threats, Officials Say,
Milwaukee J. Sentinel, Oct. 29, 1995, at 1. Similarly, after a Cedar
Rapids, Iowa, Assistant U.S. Attorney indicted 11 people on mail fraud
and money laundering charges in 1995, the "Supreme Law
Court" summoned him to appear at a Topeka, Kansas, Texaco truck
stop. He declined. See Michael Janofsky, Home-Grown Courts Spring Up
as Judicial Arm of the Far Right, N. Y. Times, April 17, 1996, at A1.
n48. See Judy L. Thomas, Hard-Line Approach Used on Extremists:
Common-Law Lien Becomes Felony for 15 of "Missouri 20,' Kansas
City Star, Aug. 18, 1997, at A1 [hereinafter Thomas, Hard-Line
Approach Used on Extremists].
n49. See id.
n50. See id. Of the 15 defendants convicted, two received
seven-year prison terms, and the rest received two-year terms. See id.
n51. See Judy L. Thomas, Lien Case Convictions Reversed, Kansas
City Star, July 8, 1998, at A1 [hereinafter Thomas, Lien Case
Convictions Reversed]. The Missouri Court of Appeals reversed 13 of
the 15 convictions on procedural grounds. See id.
n52. See Eileen Dempsey and Jill Riepenhoff, Outside the System,
Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 17, 1995, at 4B.
n53. See Grace Hobson, A Capitol Trial for "Common-Law' Court:
Group Will Hold Proceedings in the Kansas Statehouse, Kansas City
Star, Aug. 5, 1997, at A1.
n54. See Grace Hobson, "Common-Law' Court Votes for Judge's
Removal: Next on the List are Kansas' Legislature and its Governor,
Kansas City Star, Aug. 9, 1997, at C3.
n55. See id.; Kansas Impostors Rightly Rebuffed, Omaha
World-Herald, Sept. 21, 1998, at 16. Graves was the elected Governor
of Kansas at the time.
n56. See Sarah Hanson, Disgruntled Citizens Turn to Common-Law
Court; Kosciusko County Venue "Indicts' Office-Holders, Alleging
Current Oaths of Office are Not on File, Indianapolis Star, July 29,
1996, at B01; Nebraska Legislature Summary, Omaha World Herald, Mar.
6, 1996, at 19.
n57. Miller v. United States, 868 F.2d 236, 238 (7th Cir. 1989).
n58. One does not, after all, think of midwestern farmers as a
radical group intent on toppling the legal structure.
n59. Although Sovereign Citizens have derived aspects of their
legal theories from Posse Comitatus theory, many reject the
theological and racist underpinnings of Posse Comitatus and Patriot
ideologies. See The Frog Farm FAQ (last modified July 27, 1995)
<http://www.the-enclave.net/p283.htm> [hereinafter Frog Farm].
Some analysts of the movement find a stronger theological
underpinning. See Susan P. Koniak, When Law Risks Madness, 8 Cardozo
Stud. L. & Literature 65, 71, 75-76 (1996) (arguing that the
Christian Identity theology of the Posse Comitatus underlies the
reasoning of the "Common Law" movement).
n60. See Phillip A. Hendges, An Analysis of: People, for Michigan
Republic, ex rel v. State of Michigan, 30 J. Marshall L. Rev. 937, 937
(1997) (describing a farmer involved in the common-law movement who
bought law books because he believed that "every county should
have at least one lay person knowledgeable in the law"). See,
e.g., Notice of National Emergency (visited Jan. 10, 1999) <http://www.ptialaska.net/swampy/powers/powers
1.html>. In nine printed pages (which are somewhat difficult to
follow), this document cites case law, the U.S. Code and other
statutory law, congressional testimony, U.S. Army field manuals,
executive orders, the Federalist Papers, and the writings of Robert
Bork and James Buchanan to prove that the current government is
operating under "Foreign/Alien Constitutions, Laws, Rules, and
n61. See Plaintiff's Opening Brief (visited Oct. 29, 1998)
<http://www.cs.cmu.edu/karl/govt/driver/driver.html>. As a
convenience for litigants, the webmaster allows visitors to download
the brief in a word-processing format, thus making it easier to
prepare and file the brief. Before word-processing software became
commonly available, litigants would simply attach photocopied
memoranda, sometimes without bothering to revise them to apply to
their specific circumstances. See Nixon v. Phillipoff, 615 F. Supp.
890, 897 (N.D. Ind. 1985) (sanctioning plaintiff for filing a 34-page
memorandum of law arguing for the continued validity of the gold
standard; the motion was written from a defendant's perspective).
n62. See The Dixieland Law Journal (last modified Sept. 10, 1999)
n63. See Cass v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 1:97 CV01236, 1998
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16723, at *6 (M.D.N.C. Oct. 1, 1998) ("The
Complaint in this matter is a rambling fount of senseless writing,
from which no reasonable mind could extract a legitimate dispute. The
underlying facts are obscure and the legal claims convoluted. The
Complaint, by itself, lacks sufficient factual allegations for the
court to wade through the ramblings in search of a possible legal
n64. See Notice of National Emergency, supra note 60.
n65. Notice of National Emergency, supra note 60.
n66. T. Collins, White Paper on State Citizenship (last modified
Oct. 29, 1997) <http://www.netaxs.com/delcolib/whitepaperonstatecitizenship.htm>.
n67. See id. Examples of Sovereign Citizen "states"
include the "Kingdom of Hawai'i," see State v. French, 883
P.2d 644, 650 (Haw. Ct. App. 1994); the "Pennsylvania
Commonwealth," see Collins, supra note 66 (distinguishing the
"Pennsylvania Commonwealth" from the "Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania," an illegally created federal zone); the
"Republic of Texas," see McLaren v. United States, Inc., 2
F. Supp. 2d 48, 49 (D. D.C. 1998); and the Washitaw Nation (a
Louisiana entity that claims its members are aboriginal inhabitants of
the United States who built the first pyramids and issues its own
driver's passports, birth certificates, and auto registration), see
Thomas, Hard-Line Approach Used on Extremists, supra note 48, at A1.
n68. See Scott Eric Rosenstiel, 14th Amendment Citizenship (visited
Oct. 4, 1999) <http://www.civil-liberties.com/pages/art2.html>
[hereinafter Rosenstiel, 14th Amendment].
n69. Id. (citing Black's Law Dictionary 657 (6th ed. 1990)). See
also Barcroft v. Commissioner, 73 T.C.M. (CCH) 1666, at *3 (1997)
(claiming, "I am not a "U.S. citizen,' subject to federal
jurisdiction, such as "officers, employees, and elected officials
of the United States,' nor do I reside within a federal territory such
as Washington D.C., or a federal enclave within a State, or a U.S.
n70. Collins, supra note 66.
n71. See United States v. Knudson, 959 F. Supp. 1180, 1184 (D. Neb.
1997) (rejecting Knudson's argument that the federal government lacks
jurisdiction outside Washington D.C.). According to some Sovereign
Citizens, persons born in the District of Columbia are not eligible
for the status of Sovereign Citizen. See Collins, supra note 66
(describing argument that only residents of Washington, D.C., and
other federal enclaves are U.S. citizens).
n72. See infra Part II.C.
n73. See Collins, supra note 66. ("Privileges granted by the
sovereign ... in their capacity to license.... what might otherwise be
illegal are always taxable and regulatable. Rights such as those
envisioned by the founding fathers are not taxable or regulatable
because they are exercises of the common right that could be
completely destroyed by government through taxation and/or
n74. Rosenstiel, 14th Amendment, supra note 68 (citing Twining v.
New Jersey, 211 U.S. 78 (1908) (citations omitted)).
n75. See Collins, supra note 66.
n76. Notice of National Emergency, supra note 60.
n77. See D.L. Bennett, Jailed "Freemen' Disciple Files for
Release, Damages, Atlanta J. and Constitution, July 23, 1998, at 3JQ
(common-law court activist jailed for eight months for refusing to pay
more than $ 12,000 in back child support).
n78. See Henry J. Cordes, Common-Law Adherents, York County Square
Off, Omaha World Herald, May 9, 1996, at 1 (Sheriff's deputies
arrested a Sovereign Citizen who violated county zoning regulations by
placing four trailers on his farmland but refused to negotiate with
n79. See Around Ohio, Columbus Dispatch, Apr. 30, 1996, at 2C (Ohio
Sovereign Citizen found guilty of obstructing a police officer after
refusing to show his driver's license during a stop related to a
burned-out headlight); Jim Woods, Two Common Law Activists Indicted in
Escape, Columbus Dispatch, Apr. 18, 1996, at 3C (clerk of Ohio's Our
One Supreme Court indicted for escape after evading arrest warrant for
driving without a license). Some traffic stops may escalate into more
serious crimes, of course. See Brinkley-Rogers & Wagner, supra
note 38, at A1 (Arizona Sovereign Citizen claiming to be
"absolute Native white male state and American Citizen of the
People" tried to run over a Mesa police officer during a traffic
stop for driving without a license plate).
n80. See State v. Davis, 745 S.W.2d. 249, 252 (Mo. Ct. App. 1988)
(upholding Davis's conviction for driving without a license despite
his claim that he was only "traveling in a conveyance");
State v. Kouba, 319 N.W.2d 161, 161 (N.D. 1982) (dismissing Kouba's
claim that he "has an inalienable right to drive upon the
highways of North Dakota and therefore he does not need an operator's
license issued by the state"). At least one Sovereign Citizen
litigant has suggested that the right to drive is hereditary. See
State v. Dempsey, No. 86-0924- CR, 1987 Wisc. App. Lexis 3407, at *7
(Wis. Ct. App. Jan. 26, 1987) (contending that 1804 travel laws
applied to Dempsey because his great-great-grandfather was born in New
York state at that time).
True, the U.S. Supreme Court has found a constitutional right to
travel. See Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 629 (1969) ("This
Court long ago recognized that the nature of our Federal Union and our
constitutional concepts of personal liberty unite to require that all
citizens be free to travel throughout the length and breadth of our
land uninhibited by statutes, rules, or regulations which unreasonably
burden or restrict this movement."). However, state requirements
regarding vehicle registration and licensing of drivers are not
unreasonable burdens or restrictions. See Hendrick v. Maryland, 235
U.S. 610, 622 (1915).
n81. See Dowis v. State, 501 S.E.2d 275, 276 (Ga. Ct. App. 1998)
(rejecting Sovereign Citizen's claim that he was not required to have
a driver's license "because he was using the highway in the
extraordinary use"). This distinction between ordinary and
extraordinary use and its resulting implications for federal
sovereignty appears to be based on the Commerce Clause. See State v.
Crisman, 846 P.2d 928, 929 (Idaho Ct. App. 1992) (upholding Crisman's
conviction for driving without a license despite his claim that he
intended to conduct only personal business on public highways).
n82. See Frog Farm, supra note 59. "Free Sovereign Citizens
consider a crime to occur only when there is a damaged person or
property. Therefore, there is no such thing as a "victimless
crime,' and no Free Sovereign Citizen can commit a crime simply by
disobeying the arbitrary rules of tyrants or coercive
organizations." See Sovereign Services, Report #PCT07:
Understanding Common Law (visited Jan. 8, 1999) <http://www.buildfreedom.com/tl/pct07.htm>.
n83. See id.
n84. See id.
n85. See id.
n87. See Collins, supra note 66.
n88. See id.
n89. See Marguerite A. Driessen, Private Organizations and the
Militia Status: They Don't Make Militias Like They Used To, 1998 B.Y.U.
L. Rev. 1, 14-29.
n90. Sovereign Services, Report #PCT07: Understanding Common Law
(visited Jan. 9, 1999) <http://buildfreedom.com/tl.pct07.html>.
n91. Id. The term is taken from the Black's Law Dictionary (6th ed.
1990) definition of a "freeman" as "the appellation of
a member of a city or borough having the right of suffrage, or a
member of any municipal corporation invested with full civic
n92. See id. Although recent practice has been to appoint
attorneys, state judges, or law professors to the federal bench,
federal law does not require a federal judge to be a member of the
bar, to have practiced law, or to have graduated from law school. See
28 U.S.C. 133 (1994). Full-time U.S. magistrates must have been a
member of the bar for at least 5five years before appointment. See 28
U.S.C. 631(b)(1) (1994). Wisconsin requires any judge to have been a
member of the Wisconsin Bar for five years before election or
appointment. See Wis. Const. art. VII, 24.
n93. The theory behind the exclusion of lawyers from common-law
courts is discussed infra, Part II.E.
n94. Notice of National Emergency, supra note 60.
n95. Valldejuli v. Social Sec. Admin., No. GCA 94-10051- MMP, 1994
WL 912253, at *1 (N.D. Fla. Dec. 20, 1994).
n96. See id. at *3.
n97. See Collins, supra note 66.
n98. 50 U.S.C. App. 1 et seq.
n99. Sovereign Citizens argue that the social security number does
not belong to the holder because the name on the card creates a
fictitious persona, the holder did not create the number, and the
account cannot be closed.
n100. See Collins, supra note 66.
n101. 4 U.S.C. 105-113 (1994) (defining the relationship between
state and federal taxes). See also Collins, supra note 66 (discussing
the Buck Act).
n102. See Collins, supra note 66.
n103. See id. The Patrick Henry Foundation for Common Law Studies
requires that "postal matter" be sent to:
Greg Loren Durand; General Delivery; Perkinston Post Office;
Perkinston, Mississippi.... All Postal Matter must be "addressed'
exactly as requested above. Please do not write the name of this
Ministry anywhere on the envelope, do not abbreviate any of the
information, do not use all capitals, and do not include a zip code.
All postal matter that does not comply with these instructions will be
returned to the sender.
The Patrick Henry Foundation for Common Law Studies, America Under
Siege (visited Sept. 4, 1999) <http://www.ametro.net/crownrights/phf/WritRerum.htm>.
n104. See Collins, supra note 66. "The fictional "State'
is identified by the use of two-letter abbreviations like "PA',
"NJ', "AZ', and "DE', etc., as distinguished from the
authorized abbreviations for the sovereign States: "Pa.',
"N.J.', "Ariz.', and "Del.' The fictional States also
use ZIP Codes that are within the municipal, exclusive legislative
jurisdiction of Congress.... If you accept postal matter sent to PA,
and/or with a ZIP Code, the Courts say that this is evidence that you
are a federal citizen or a resident." Id.
n105. See Hobson, supra note 54, at C3. The prosecutor of the
Kansas Territorial Agricultural Society professed confusion that the
judge he was impeaching signed his name "Thomas Marten" and
"J. Thomas Marten" and remarked, "It's a different
person here now." Id.
n106. See Collins, supra note 66. This doctrine is convenient for
those seeking to avoid subpoenas and other court documents in which
parties' names appear entirely in capital letters. See, e.g., Boyce v.
Commissioner, 72 T.C.M. (CCH) 788, 789 (1996) ("The objection
also includes an objection to the spelling of petitioners' names in
capital letters because they are not "fictitious
entities.'"); George Hesselberg, Dentist Says Social Security
Number is "666', Wis. St. J., Feb. 1, 1998, at 1G (describing a
LaCrosse dentist's refusal to acknowledge a complaint that spelled his
name in all capital letters).
n107. See Tom Jackman, "Freeman' Directed to Appear: Kansan
Must Explain His Actions in Court in Oklahoma, Judge Says, Kan. City
Star, July 18, 1996, at C4 (describing a U.S. Magistrate's rejection
of the argument that a federal subpoena addressed to "Billy Joe
Hanzlicek" should instead have been addressed to "Billy Joe,
Hanzlicek"). A few tolerant courts allow this practice. See,
e.g., Maurice James; Dilouie v. Padova, No. 97-6305, 1998 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 4196, at *1 (E.D. Pa. March 19, 1998); Eddie Bradford: Lee v.
McClellan, No. 3:97 CV355-P, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20854, at *1 (W.D.N.C.
Nov. 18, 1997).
n108. See Resource Center, The Truth About ID Cards (visited
September 4, 1999) <http://www.zekes.com/happy/scrc/why-id.htm>.
n109. See Collins, supra note 66.
n110. See id. As proof, Collins contends that birth certificates
are sent to the Department of Commerce, then to an International
Monetary Fund building in Europe so the child's future labor and
properties can be used as collateral for the public debt. See id.
Those inclined to quibble with the subtleties of Sovereign Citizen
theory may note that birth certificates are issued by the state;
Collins would reply that they are issued by the illegitimate
"state" created by the federal government.
n111. Notice of National Emergency, supra note 60.
n112. See James Montgomery, Where's the Water??? Admiralty on the
Land (last modified Aug. 27, 1995) <http://www.westworld.com/jahred/water.html>.
n113. See id.
n114. See id. The fraudulent contracts discussed in the previous
Section do not invoke equity jurisdiction; contracts between the
United States and Sovereign Citizens are international contracts
because the United States is a foreign corporation.
n115. See Collins, supra note 66 passim. Mainstream law, however,
claims that admiralty jurisdiction "extends over all contracts (wheresoever
they may be made or executed, or whatsoever may be the form of the
stipulations) which relate to the navigation, business, or commerce of
the sea [and] comprehends all maritime contracts, torts, and injuries
[although] the latter branch is necessarily bounded by locality."
De Lovio v. Boit, 7 F. Cas. 418, 444 (C.C.D. Mass. 1815) (No. 3776).
n116. See Montgomery, supra note 112.
n117. See Collins, supra note 66. According to the Sovereign
Citizens, any other action taken under admiralty jurisdiction is
similarly illegal. See, e.g., Nishitani v. Baker, 921 P.2d. 1182, 1188
(claiming that "the State of Hawaii was created and evolved
solely out of "ADMIRALTY JURISDICTION,' thus exempting
native-born Hawaiians from its jurisdiction.").
n118. See Collins, supra note 66. "Pursuant to U.S.C. Chapter
1, 2, and 3; Executive Order No. 10834, August 21, 1959, 24 F.R. 6865,
a military flag is a flag that resembles the regular flag of the
United States, except that it has a YELLOW FRINGE, bordered on three
sides. The President of the United states [sic] designates this
deviation from the regular flag, by executive order, and in his
capacity as COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF of the Armed Forces." Montgomery,
supra note 112.
n119. Schneider v. Schlaefer, 975 F. Supp. 1160, 1162 n.1 (E.D.
n120. See id.; see also Dunkel v. McCloskey, No. 97-3439, 1998 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 18802, at *4-5 (E.D. Penn. Nov. 25, 1998); Cass v. R.J.
Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 1:97 CV01236, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16723,
at *6-7 (M.D.N.C. Oct. 1, 1998); McCann v. Greenway, 952 F. Supp. 647,
650-51 (W.D. Mo. 1997) (refuting the maritime flag of war argument);
Sadlier v. Payne, 974 F. Supp. 1411, 1413 (D. Utah 1997); Nasir v.
Anderson, No. CIV.A. 96-4775, 1997 WL 567928, at *2 n.2 (D. N.J. Aug.
25, 1997); Leverenz v. Torluemlu, No. 96 C 2886, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
8444, at *2 (N.D. Ill. June 13, 1996); Commonwealth v. Appel, 652 A.2d
341, 343 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1994); Huebner v. State, No. 14-96-00925- CR,
1997 Tex. App. LEXIS 2452, at *3 (Tex. App. May 8, 1997, no writ).
n121. See Mike Lafferty, Militia Member Jailed for Contempt of
Court at Assault Trial, Columbus Dispatch, Apr. 24, 1996, at 1C.
n122. Sadlier, 974 F. Supp. at 1413 n.2.
n123. See Collins, supra note 66.
n124. See id.
n125. See Discussion Group (last modified Oct. 7, 1997)
the text of nor the comments to U.C.C. 1-207 mention the common law.
For Sovereign Citizens, the relevant portion is the second paragraph
of Comment 2, which reads, "This section is ... addressed ... to
a method of procedure where one party is claiming as of right
something which the other feels to be unwarranted." U.C.C. 1-207,
cmt. 2 (1989).
n126. Frog Farm, supra note 59.
n127. See Resource Center, supra note 108.
n128. Notice of National Emergency, supra note 60.
n129. See Mike Lafferty, Disaffected Citizens Trying to Take Law
into Their Own Hands, Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 17, 1995, at 1A.
n130. Theresa Myers, "Common Law' Advocates Support Laws -
Their Laws, Denver Post, Apr. 21, 1996, at B-01.
n131. See Thomas, Lien Case Convictions Reversed, supra note 51, at
n132. David M. Dodge, The Missing 13th Amendment (last modified May
5, 1996) <http://odur.let.rug.nl/usa/E/thirteen/thirteen1.htm>.
n133. See Jol Silversmith, The Real Titles of Nobility Amendment
FAQ (last modified June 19, 1997) <http://www.nyx.net/jsilvers/nobility.html>.
n134. See id.
n135. See Barefoot Bob, The Original Thirteenth Amendment: Titles
of Nobility and Honour, An Essay (last modified Mar. 27, 1999)
n136. See id.
n137. See id. Lincoln also imposed a state of emergency that has
never been lifted.
n138. See Anderson v. United States, No. 97 C 2805, 1998 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 7107, at *7-8 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 24, 1998). Mr. Anderson claimed
no lawyer or member of Congress is a citizen of the United States
because the penalty for violation of the "Original"
Thirteenth Amendment ("claiming a title of nobility") is
loss of citizenship. According to Mr. Anderson, since no member of
Congress is a citizen, Congress is unable to enact any laws that have
constitutional effect. Mr. Anderson argues that his civil rights were
violated, along with the "Original" Thirteenth Amendment,
because the court is a racist body that colludes with the Bar
Association and Congress to violate citizens' rights. Mr. Anderson
continues, stating that every licensed attorney is guilty of
collusion, deceptive trade practices, fraud, and extortion. He then
notes that "ALFRED THE GREAT HUNG FORTY-FIVE (45) JUDGES for
placing their "OPINIONS' above the law!" Id.
n139. See Dodge, supra note 132.
Historically, the British peerage system referred to knights as
"Squires" and to those who bore the knight's shields as
"Esquires." As lances, shields, and physical violence gave
way to the more civilized means of theft, the pen grew mightier (and
more profitable) than the sword, and the clever wielders of those pens
(bankers and lawyers) came to hold titles of nobility. The most common
title was "Esquire."
In fact, "esquire" was considered a title of dignity
(ranking above a gentleman but below a knight) or a title of office,
not a title of nobility. See Black's Law Dictionary 546 (6th ed.
n140. Dodge, supra note 132.
n141. See id. This argument is convenient for Sovereign Citizen
litigants, who often sue judges, police officers, court clerks, and
other public officials who are immune from suit under invalid federal
n142. A sample affidavit of sovereign status runs as follows:
I (name), to Lawfully Affirm as follows this date: (date)
1. I am a NATURAL-BORN, FREE adult Citizen* of the State of
Wisconsin by birth, thus of Americansic, and an inhabitant of the
State of Wisconsin; thankfully endowed by our Creator God with
Inalienable Rights enumerated in America's founding organic documents,
which I have never with knowingly intelligent acts waived; and I
freely choose to obey all American Law and pay all Lawful taxes in
jurisdictions applicable to me for the common good. I stand in Proper
Person with Assistance, Special. The foregoing including my STATUS and
Unalienable Rights, are not negotiable.
*My status, in accord, is stated for all in 1:2:3, 2:1:5, 3:2:1,
and 4:2:1 of the U.S. Constitution.
2. Recent diligent studies have convinced me of the above and that,
as such, I am not "subject to" the territorially-limited
"exclusive Legislation" and its foreign jurisdiction
mandated for Washington, D.C., etc. in our U.S. Constitution's Article
1:8:17-18, including its "internal" government organizations
therein or by contract adhesioned thereto across America. And neither
are millions of other such Citizens, unless they have provided
"WAIVERS of Constitutional Rights" by "knowingly
intelligent acts done with sufficient awareness of the relevant
circumstances and likely consequences"; as ruled by the 1970
Supreme Court ( Brady v. U.S., 397 U.S. 742 at 748). I have given no
3. These studies also prove that a shrewd and criminal Constructive
Fraud has been perpetrated upon America by government under
counterfeit "color of law," through apparent entrapments of
"certain ACTIVITIES (monopoly occupations) and PRIVILEGES"
(other benefits) allowed by Statutory Acts or otherwise. By
never-repealed American Law, such sources of past and present Criminal
Element in (and behind) Government should be brought to Justice in a
Constitutional Court for aiding and abetting this Fraud as willing
Accomplices. It is for such Court with a 12-member Jury of Peers to
decide who is and is not Guilty among personnel of government, media,
schools, lawyers, accountants, clergy and other purveyors of
misinformation and propaganda in this and related regards.
4. Due to such shrewd entrapments. Over the years I have
unwittingly signed many of the related documents or contracts, some
even under the "perjury" jurat [sic] as was supposedly
required. With American Law on this Citizen's side, I hereby REVOKE
all such signatures and render them null and void except for those
that I choose to have measured as being under "TDC" (threat,
duress and/or coercion) and/or "without prejudice" (per
U.C.C. 1-207), past and now. This is also my Lawful Notice that all
such signature of mine in the future, with such governmental or
otherwise-adhesioned sources, are to be considered as under "TDC"
and/or "without prejudice," whether appearing therewith or
otherwise, including banks, licenses, etc. So be it, respectfully
demanding that my Constitutional "Privileges and Immunities"
(Article 4:2) are apart from 1:8:17-18's Washington, D.C., and shall
not by Law be violated ever.
5. With this accurate knowledge, I Lawfully "squarely
challenge" the fraudulent, usurping octopus of
JURISDICTIONAL/AUTHORITY (cited in Item #2 above) which does not apply
to me (ref: Hagan v. Lavine , 415 U.S. 527 at 533), with
"the supreme Law of the Land" (our Constitution's 6"2)
again on this Citizen's aide. It is therefore now mandatory for any
personnel of Article 1:8:17-18's so-called "IRS," for
example, to first prove its "jurisdiction," if any, over me
before any further procedures can take place in my regard [Title 5,
U.S. Code, 556(d)]; or else its personnel land accomplices wilfully
[sic] violating this can and shall be personally charged as citizens
under Title 18 U.S. Criminal Codes 241, 242, 1001 and/or otherwise. In
fairness it can be added that "IRS" agents have no written,
Lawful "Delegation of Authority" to my knowledge and that
there so-called "form 1040" appears to be a bootleg
document, lacking a proper OMB number (no expiration date).
6. With all of the above in mind, it appears that this private
Citizen is by Law as "Foreign" and "Non-Resident
Alien" to the Article 1:8:17-18's Washington, D.C., as to another
country and thus shall feel free to use its forms when and as useful
[e.g. W-8 "Certificate of FOREIGN STATUS," 1040NR for
"U.S. Non-Resident Alien Income Tax Return" Refunds, and IRS
Code Section 3402(n) to cancel "withholding"].
FURTHER THE AFFIANT SAITH NOT, on this date...
Korte, supra note 47, exhibit A.
n143. Remember that the Sovereign Citizen "state" is
distinct from the illegally created federal "states." See
supra, Part II.A.
n144. Sovereign Citizens argue that Federal Reserve notes are
fraudulent: "They are not notes because they do not promise to
pay anything at a certain date. They can't be dollars because the word
"dollar' is a noun. A dollar is a word designating a unit of
measure such as pound or quart. Therefore, the use of the word
"dollar' on a Federal Reserve Note really means a dollar's worth
of nothing." Barcroft v. Commissioner, 73 T.C.M. (CCH) 1666, 1667
n.3 (1997). This Comment lacks space to address the claim that only
gold and silver constitute legitimate currency. See, e.g., Wikoff v.
Commissioner, 37 T.C.M. (CCH) 1539, 1539 (1978) (arguing that only
gold and silver constitute legal tender and that the plaintiff should
be able to report his income in terms of the "real value" of
Federal Reserve notes).
n145. See Collins, supra note 66.
n146. See Sadlier v. Payne, 974 F. Supp. 1411, 1416 (D. Utah 1997)
("One thing of interest to the Court is the fact that in this
case of no great moment the courtroom was filled with interested
spectators. It seems that many had been advised of the hearing by one
engaged in offering high priced legal procedure seminars for money and
vending high priced books. Such persons ... should be less concerned
with esoteric theories as to the effect on state judicial power by the
presence of fringed flag, and more concerned with dealing honestly and
fairly with those persons from whom they extract money in return for
spurious scholarship and flawed opinions long since
n147. See Rosenstiel, 14th Amendment Citizenship, supra note 68.
n148. See The Sovereignty Workshop BBS (visited Jan. 8, 1999)
n149. See Frog Farm, supra note 59.
n150. See id.
n151. Paul Andrew Mitchell, Supreme Law Firm (visited Jan. 10,
n152. See, e.g., Leverenz v. Torluemlu, No. 96 C 2886, 1996 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 8444, *1 (N.D. Ill. June 17, 1996).
n153. See FREE underground LEGAL ADVISOR (visited Oct. 29, 1998)
n154. See Frog Farm, supra note 59. Among other things, the
questionnaire asks for the home address of the public servant and
demands that he or she furnish a copy of the law or regulation
authorizing the investigation. See id. See also United States v.
Scott, No. 98-3830, 1999 WL 518930 (7th Cir. June 23, 1999)
(unpublished) (describing the "Public Servant Questionnaire"
as "irrelevant and invasive.").
n155. See, e.g., David van Biema, Militias, Time, June 26, 1995, at
n156. See Eduardo Montes, W. Texas Town Still Scarred Year After
Separatist Standoff: Many Residents Can't Shake Air of Misgiving Left
by Republic Incident, Dallas Morning News, Apr. 26, 1998, at 57A.
n157. See Tom Kenworthy, U.S. Racking Up Convictions Against
Militiamen Experts: Hardest Core Remains, Arizona Republic, Jan. 3,
1998, at A7.
n158. See Carol M. Ostrom and Barbara A. Serrano, Land of The
Freemen Republic of Montana: Ranchers Issue Bounties on Lawmen, Storm
Courthouse, Concoct Own Money. Neighbors Turn Against Neighbors in
Struggle for Soul of Community, Seattle Times, May 7, 1995, at A1.
n159. See, e.g., R.J. Larizza, Paranoia, Patriotism, and the
Citizen Militia Movement: Constitutional Right or Criminal Conduct?,
47 Mercer L. Rev. 581, 592-93 (1996) (describing an assault by militia
tax protestors against Karen Matthews, the clerk-recorder for
Stanislaus County, California, who had refused to remove a $ 416,000
IRS lien against property belonging to a militia member).
n160. See, e.g., Korte, supra note 47, exhibit A.
n161. See Koniak, supra note 59, at 97 (arguing that the common-law
courts movement must inevitably lead to madness or violence).
n162. ADL Model "Common Law Courts" Statute:
A(1) Any person who deliberately impersonates or falsely acts as a
public officer or tribunal, public employee or utility employee,
including but not limited to marshals, judges, prosecutors, sheriffs,
deputies, court personnel, or any law enforcement authority in
connection with or relating to any legal process affecting person(s)
and property; or
(2) Any person who simulates legal process including, but not
limited to, actions affecting title to real estate or personal
property, indictments, subpoenas, warrants, injunctions, liens,
orders, judgments, or any legal documents or proceedings; knowing or
having reason to know the contents of any such documents or
proceedings or the basis for any action to be fraudulent; or
(3) Any person who, while acting falsely under color of law, takes
any action against person(s) or property; or
(4) Any person who falsely under color of law attempts in any way
to influence, intimidate, or hinder a public official or law
enforcement officer in the discharge of his or her official duties by
means of, but not limited to, threats of or actual physical abuse,
harassment, or through the use of simulated legal process....
Anti-Defamation League, "Common-Law Courts:" A
Legislative Response 54, Appendix B (1996).
n163. See, e.g., United States v. Schneider, 910 F.2d 1569, 1570
(7th Cir. 1990) (upholding a five-year prison sentence for Schneider,
who had sent a letter to the Illinois Supreme Court referring to the
justices as "public serpents" and threatening to
"execute" a circuit judge who had rendered a default
judgment against him in a zoning dispute).
n164. See, e.g., Mo. Rev. Stat. 428.105-428.135 (Supp. 1996) and
575.130 (Supp. 1996).
n165. See id.
n166. See id; Wis. Stats. 946.68(1) (1996). Furthermore, Wis.
Stats. 946.69(2) (a)(1996), provides that anyone who "assumes to
act in an official capacity or to perform an official function,
knowing that he or she is not the public officer or public employe"
[sic] is guilty of a misdemeanor.
n167. See United States v. Buttorff, 572 F.2d 619, 622-23 (8th Cir.
n168. See id. at 623.
n169. See id. at 621-22. 26 U.S.C. 7205 prohibits filing false or
fraudulent withholding information that, if reported truthfully, would
require an increase in withholding. See id. at 622 n.1. 18 U.S.C 2(a)
provides that "Whoever commits an offense against the United
States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces, or procures its
commission, is punishable as a principal." Id. at 622 n.2. To
establish aiding or abetting, the government must show "some
affirmative participation which at least encourages the
perpetrator." United States v. Thomas, 469 F.2d 145, 147 (8th
n170. See Buttorff, 572 F.2d at 623.
n171. Id. at 624.
n172. See United States v. Moss, 604 F.2d 569, 570 (8th Cir. 1979).
n173. See id.
n174. See id.
n175. See id.
n176. Id. at 571 (omissions, insertions, and typographical errors
n177. 18 U.S.C. 371 (1994).
n178. 18 U.S.C. 1341 and 1342 (1994). See United States v.
Fleschner, 98 F.3d 155, 157 (4th Cir. 1996) (upholding Fleschner's
conspiracy conviction for conducting for-profit tax avoidance seminars
at which he advised participants that wages were not income and that
they should hide income by dealing only in cash); United States v.
Rowlee, 899 F.2d 1275, 1276-77 (2d Cir. 1990) (upholding Rowlee's
conviction for fourteen counts of conspiracy and six counts of mail
fraud for his role in teaching tax avoidance seminars, selling
"interrogatories" that he claimed could stop an audit and
lay the groundwork for indicting IRS directors, serving as a tax
advisor for clients who submitted false W-4 forms, and urging clients
to file suits and Freedom of Information Act requests against the IRS
to waste the agency's time).
n179. Prosecutions could be based on violations of state conspiracy
statutes as well.
n180. 128 F.3d 233, 233 (4th Cir. 1997).
n181. See id. at 267.
n182. See id. at 239-41. The Fourth Circuit identified 16 points of
similarity between Perry's actions and the plan outlined in Hit Man.
n183. See id. at 241.
n184. See Rice v. Paladin Enter., 940 F. Supp. 836, 841 (D. Md.
1996). Paladin apparently wanted the case dismissed solely on the
First Amendment issue presented.
n185. See id. at 849.
n186. Rice, 128 F.3d at 267.
n187. Isaac Molnar, Comment, Resurrecting the Bad Tendency Test to
Combat Instructional Speech: Militias Beware, 59 Ohio St. L.J. 1333,
n188. See id. at 1369-70 (arguing that "the "bad
tendency' test will allow the jury, without the restraints of an
imminence requirement, to infer intent from the tendency of the
speaker's words ... despite the absurdly remote possibility that the
words would lead to action").
n189. See Korte, supra note 47, at 7-9. U.C.C. liens are forged
U.C.C. financing statements granting the "creditor" a
security interest in the debtor's property. They are filed with the
Secretary of State or Register of Deeds.
n190. See Wis. Stat. 943.60(1) (Supp. 1997) ("Any person who
submits for filing, entering or recording any lien, claim of lien, lis
pendens, writ of attachment, financing statement, or any other
instrument relating to a security interest in or title to real or
personal property, and who knows or should have known that the
contents or any part of the contents of the instrument are false, a
sham or frivolous, is guilty of a Class D felony.").
n191. See Wis. Stat. 706.13 (Supp. 1997).
n192. See Wis. Stat. 706.15 (Supp. 1995).
n193. See Sean Munger, Bill Clinton Bugged My Brain!: Delusional
Claims in Federal Courts, 72 Tul. L. Rev. 1809, 1812 n.20 (1998)
("The ubiquity and character of such claims is evident even after
spending only a short time in a federal court setting. The author of
this comment interned with a federal magistrate in a United States
district court in the Midwest and after less than two weeks there
encountered a delusional claim. It involved an elderly Nebraska farmer
and wife who claimed that the government of the United States had been
secretly overthrown by the military during the 1930s, citing as
evidence of this coup the military-style gold fringe on the flag in
the U.S. district courtroom."). The elements of the delusional
claim Munger encountered are similar to many Sovereign Citizen
pleadings. In interviewing for judicial clerkships, the author has
spoken with several judges who had come across Sovereign Citizen
n194. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(f).
n195. See Korte, supra note 47, exhibit A.
n196. See, e.g., State v. Dempsey, No. 86-0924- CR, 1987 Wisc. App.
LEXIS 3407, at *2 (Wis. Ct. App. Jan. 26, 1987) ("An appellate
court is not a performing bear required to dance to every tune played
on appeal.") (citation omitted).
n197. See, e.g., Robert Perez, Tax Bill Met with Heavenly Protest,
Orlando Sentinel, Nov. 2, 1997, at K1 (reporting a Florida circuit
judge's discovery of valid legal contentions in a Sovereign Citizen
pleading. The judge remarked, "Even a blind squirrel can
sometimes find an acorn.").
n198. See 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2) (Supp. 1999). Previously, the
statute (then section 1915(d)) had only allowed courts to dismiss
frivolous actions filed in forma pauperis; frivolous litigants who
paid the filing fee were allowed to continue, albeit briefly. See
Munger, supra note 193, at 1812. The old statute was designed to
"discourage the filing of baseless lawsuits that paying litigants
generally do not initiate because of cost and the threat of
sanctions." 32 Am. Jur. 2d Federal Courts 534 (1960). Courts were
(and still are) required to reserve summary dismissal only for extreme
frivolousness. See 32 Am. Jur. 2d Federal Courts 536 (1960).
n199. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325-26, 329 (1989)
("To this end, the statute accords judges not only the authority
to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory,
but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's
factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions
are clearly baseless.").
n200. See id. at 329.
n201. See, e.g., Reed v. Stein, No. 88- A-1392, 1990 Ohio App.
LEXIS 2723, at *2 (Ohio Ct. App. June 29, 1990) (upholding award of
attorney's fees under Ohio statute against Sovereign Citizen who
engaged in "frivolous conduct").
n202. See 26 U.S.C. 6673(a)(1) (Supp. 1999) (authorizing the Tax
Court to award a penalty of up to $ 25,000 when proceedings have been
instituted or maintained primarily for delay, or where the taxpayer's
position is frivolous or groundless if it is contrary to established
law and unsupported by a reasoned, colorable argument for change in
n203. Coleman v. Commissioner, 791 F.2d 68, 71 (7th Cir. 1986).
Rule 11 sanctions can include attorney fees and court costs, as well
as other sanctions. See Nixon v. Phillipoff, 615 F. Supp. 890, 897
(N.D. Ind. 1985). State courts have similar powers.
n204. Coleman, 791 F.2d at 72. Judging by the high number of cases
in which the Seventh Circuit has seen fit to impose sanctions since
1986, one must wonder whether the court is reconsidering its approach.
See, e.g., Harrell v. Commissioner, No. 98-4120, 1999 WL 638510 (7th
Cir. Aug. 18, 1999) (unpublished) (upholding the Tax Court's sanction
against a tax protestor who argued that "Federal Reserve notes
are not dollars representing a parity of gold or silver content in
fineness and weight as defined by the Coinage Act of 1792");
United States v. Scott, No. 98-3830, 1999 WL 518930 (7th Cir. June 23,
1999) (unpublished) (imposing sanctions on the court's own motion
against Scott for filing a tax protestor appeal that the court
characterized as "frivolous squared"); Jamroz v. Panuthos,
No. 97-1813, 1997 WL 730303 (7th Cir. Nov. 20, 1997) (unpublished).
n206. "The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of
Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their
respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of
law." 28 U.S.C. 1651(a). Federal courts may impose a pre-filing
review requirement when four conditions are met:
(1) plaintiff is given adequate notice to oppose a restrictive
pre-filing order before it is entered;
(2) the court [sic] provides an adequate record for review,
including a listing of all the cases and motions that led the court to
conclude that a vexatious litigant order was needed;
(3) the Court makes substantive findings as to the frivolous or
harassing nature of the litigant's actions; and
(4) the Court order is narrowly tailored.
Johns v. Town of Los Gatos, 834 F. Supp. 1230, 1232 (N.D. Cal.
1993) (citation omitted) (imposing a pre-filing review requirement on
litigant who showed a history of frivolous and harassing litigation
and the propensity to continue it).
n207. See Robert P. Sigman, "Trials" Lack Legal Standing:
Groups Ignore Legitimate System of Governance, Kan. City Star, Aug. 6,
1997, at C6 (Kansas Territorial Agricultural Society began after
property forfeiture for non-payment of taxes); Myers, supra note 130,
at B-01 (member of Colorado common-law court became involved after
foreclosure on Nebraska land).
n208. See, e.g., Ostrom and Serrano, supra note 158 (describing
Militia of Montana adherents who filed Sovereign Citizen pleadings
when faced with foreclosure).
n209. David Neiwert, Ash on the Sills: The Significance of the
Patriot Movement in America, 58 Mont. L. Rev. 19, 42 (1997).