Sovereign Citizens are kind of like watching a clip from America’s Funniest Home Videos: entertaining as long as it doesn’t involve you directly.
After losing two civil and one criminal lawsuit in state court, one such Citizen decided to avail himself of the protection of the Federal Bankruptcy court in South Dakota. If you have any familiarity with the typical court behavior of sovereign citizens, you can predict the results. He picked and chose the rules he liked, ignoring the ones that did not serve his purpose. His chapter 13 bankruptcy was kicked out: he filed a new one, and that case was kicked out as well. Here are some excerpts.
After the Debtor’s attempts to challenge the judgments in the state courts proved unsuccessful, he convened a group of individuals which he refers to as “the Peoples Seventh Amendment Jury.” The “jury” purported to void the judgments against the Debtor as being fraudulently obtained and also assessed punitive damages against the parties involved in the alleged fraud. In 2013, the Debtor filed the Peoples Seventh Amendment Jury’s judgment and other documents containing the heading of “Our One Supreme Court” in the South Dakota state court. The filing of these documents resulted in the Debtor being convicted of the crime of accusing a state court judge of treason and threatening the judge with death. That conviction was affirmed by the South Dakota Supreme Court. …
In addition to the arguments which had previously been rejected by the courts, he also now asserts that ConAgra and the political and judicial leaders of South Dakota have conspired to destroy his livelihood as an organic farmer and take over the food industry.
The court found that Mr. Paulson’s opposition to the dismissal of his second bankruptcy case was both untimely, and meritless. Paulson v. McDermott, No. 16-6018 (8th Cir. 2016) http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca8/16-6018/16-6018-2016-11-17.html
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.”