Authorities in southern California are doubtful about a private fraternal group’s claim of lawful right to wield police jurisdiction over 33 states and Mexico, even though one of its promoters happens to be a deputy director for community affairs in the office of real-life California Attorney General Kamala Harris. “A website claiming to represent their force cites connections to the Knights Templars that they say go back 3,000 years.” [Los Angeles Times] As I’ve often noted about the phenomenon I call “folk law,” just as fantasies about living in past ages never seem to involve being a serf oneself, but always being Cleopatra or a Viking raider, so fantasies about alternative orders of legal legitimacy tend toward giving you the right to arrest other people, rather than vice versa.
For our folk-law category, a list of sure-loser arguments on behalf of tax non-compliance, including “Paying federal taxes is optional,” “Wages are not ‘income,'” “I got paid in paper money, which is not taxable,” and “You can only tax U.S. citizens, and I just seceded,” all of which are good for amusing tax professionals but not for keeping you out of jail. [Lowering the Bar]
- Yikes: Nevada supreme court is nearly broke because it relies on traffic ticket revenue and cops are writing fewer [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
- Forced marriage in immigrant communities happening not just in places like English Midlands, but in U.S. as well; those who assist resistant teenage girls risk “aiding delinquent minor” charges [Washington Post]
- “Posner informs pro se litigant that the queen of England did not absolve him of need to pay taxes” [ABA Journal]
- Panel at Federalist Society on president’s power not to enforce the law [Randy Barnett, background on panel]
- Inside grand jury’s investigation of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane [Philadelphia Inquirer] “Referral fees paid to wife of former Pa. Supreme Court justice questioned” [Harrisburg Patriot-News]
- Have you or a loved one been attacked by a Zebra? [Arkansas Matters] “Louisiana Man on Trial for Murder Says He Thought the Victim Was an Alligator” [People]
- Sneaky Oregon law will divert unclaimed class action dollars to legal aid and not incidentally boost legal fees [Sen. Betsy Johnson, East Oregonian]
Mr. Wemple’s various lawsuits have named as defendants all Illinois judicial circuits as well as, more recently, “the Illinois State Bar Association and all of its members,” for conscripting him into a legal process that is “defective and unsafe for its intended purpose in that it generates degeneration financially, psychologically and/or physically.” One of his filings charged the state bar association with “treason” of sundry varieties, not a well-formed complaint since “treason is a criminal offense, not a basis for a civil lawsuit.” A no-longer-patient judge has ordered him added “to the list of ‘restricted filers’ (sometimes called ‘vexatious litigants’) who typically must seek leave before filing anything (and pay fees up front) because of this sort of history.” [Lowering the Bar]
The defendant in the Duluth doctor-rating defamation case that we recounted here and here “told the Star Tribune he spent the equivalent of two years’ income, some of which he had to borrow from relatives who supplied the money by raiding their retirement funds.” The Minnesota Supreme Court eventually ruled that his comments were protected opinion. The doctor/plaintiff, for his part, spent $60,000 pursuing the suit. [Twin Cities Business]
The same article, a “Lawsuits of the Year 2013” feature, also recounts how a couple under the influence of “sovereign citizen” teachings “filed more than $250 billion in liens, and other claims, against those they considered the cause of their problems, including [Hennepin County Sheriff Rich] Stanek, county attorneys and other court officials. The liens were filed against vehicles, houses and even mineral rights.” When Stanek went to refinance his property, he discovered he had been hit with $25 million in liens which took “several years” to remove entirely. The husband of the couple was sent to prison.
A big source of frivolous litigation these days, the “sovereign citizen” cult originated on the political right but has now spread more widely [Lorelei Laird, ABA Journal]:
When involved in any legal matter, from pet licensing to serious criminal charges, sovereigns are known for filing legal-sounding gibberish, usually pro se, learned from other sovereigns who sell lessons in “law” online. Frequently, they cite the Uniform Commercial Code, maritime law and the Bible.
They’re also known for the sheer volume of their filings, which can double the size of a normal docket. …
Some sovereigns hold trials in their own “common-law courts,” convicting public officials in absentia and sentencing them to death for “treason.” …Sovereigns sometimes say they are subject only to “God’s law” or to “common law,” meaning the U.S. legal system as they believe it existed before the conspiracy. They may declare themselves independent nations, join fictional American Indian tribes or attempt to create a replacement government within the sovereign community.
Don’t assume that public officials and public employees are the only ones swept in:
The Atta family locked up their Temecula, Calif., home and went on vacation in 2012. While they were gone, Victor Cheng moved in.
Cheng had owned the home before the Attas, but he lost it in foreclosure. Nonetheless, he filed a fraudulent deed with the county recorder’s office, transferred the utilities into his name and even tried to evict the Attas after their return. During his prosecution for burglary, trespassing and filing a false document, he insisted that he was not the person being prosecuted because the indictment spelled his name in all capital letters.
Full story here.
- Metro-North train crash spurs calls for mandatory crash-prevention devices. Think twice [Steve Chapman]
- BP sues attorney Mikal Watts [Insurance Journal] Exaggerated Gulf-spill claims as a business ethics issue [Legal NewsLine]
- Pot-war fan: “Freedom also means the right not to be subjected to a product I consider immoral” [one of several Baltimore Sun letters to the editor in reaction to my piece on marijuana legalization, and Gregory Kline’s response]
- Aaron Powell, The Humble Case for Liberty [Libertarianism.org]
- Allegation: lawprof borrowed a lot of his expert witness report from Wikipedia [Above the Law]
- Frivolous “sovereign citizen” lawsuits on rise in southern Jersey [New Jersey Law Journal, earlier]
- Star of Hitchcock avian thriller had filed legal malpractice action: “Tippi Hedren wins $1.5 million in bird-related law suit” [Telegraph]
Durable as a matter of folk law though carrying no weight at all within most courts as actually constituted, various widely circulated theories (“free man,” “sovereign citizen,” etc.) purport to establish a right of litigants to escape courts’ ordinary jurisdiction; sometimes it’s also alleged that tax laws and other longstanding enactments are flawed and of no binding effect. Last month a Canadian jurist by the name of J.D. Rooke handed down an opinion anatomizing different varieties of “Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument” [“OPCA”] seized on as a basis for vexatious litigation [Meads vs. Meads, Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, Sept. 18]
Across the country, reports Court TV, prison inmates are harassing lawyers and court personnel by filing liens against them for supposed violations of the inmates’ copyright in their own names. The copyright-in-one’s-name premise may be supremely absurd — an egregious example of the homespun legal reasoning I once described, in the context of tax protests, as “folk law” — but it works surprisingly well as a means of harassment: the target’s credit standing may be frozen until he manages to get the lien on his house removed, which can be an expensive and time-consuming undertaking (Emanuella Grinberg, “What’s in a name? A fortune, some inmates say”, Court TV, Mar. 17). Curmudgeonly Clerk (Mar. 30) cites several federal cases that have arisen from this abuse (complete with an opinion by Judge Easterbrook) and points out that despite the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, the system clearly has a way to go in curbing unfounded inmate litigation.