Sovereign Citizens: a movement propounded by people who believe that arcane and secret laws (usually quoted out of context or wholly made up) can be applied to thwart other laws, similar to the very underrated News Radio episode 15 season three (“There is a secret word that, when uttered, forces the judge to rule in your favor, then go to a secret location to paddle themselves in a secret ceremony.”) In reality, “sovereign citizen” is most often unwittingly synonymous with “When I am done with my argument, send me to jail.” Which is where the defendant meets other people equally as shocked that the court flat out ignored the “laws” they quoted. It’s surprising how rarely the blame falls on the person who provided the secret “laws” in the first place.
Judge Posner is a pretty famous Federal court judge, handling an unusual case. My favorite quote is the last line of the judge’s February 20, 2015 order: “(D)efendant … will not be permitted to present at trial the arguments to which I have referred, however deeply and sincerely he believes them to be valid.”
The specific beliefs and laws cited by the “unfailingly polite” defendant in this tax fraud case include citations to the Uniform Commercial Code, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, admiralty and maritime law, and the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, as well as old English “Common Law” from before the US was founded. To be fair, these are by and large existing laws and rules. However, “extant” and “applicable” are not the same.
Judge Posner writes: “These bodies of law are totally irrelevant to this criminal prosecution. Nor may he argue at trial that this court lacks jurisdiction over him because he is a “sovereign citizen” or citizen of the Cherokee nation (he is in fact a U.S. citizen), that the U.S. Government is a corporation or is insolvent, or that the Internal Revenue Service has been dismantled. These are all utterly irrelevant and frivolous contentions. But I seem unable to convince him, and I am losing confidence that he will obey my order.”