Varieties of “you lack jurisdiction” eccentricity

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]

P.S. A glimpse of the “sovereign citizen” scene in the U.S., h/t Lowering the Bar.


  • Other than IRS guidance that identifies frivolous positions, has any other US agency — or court, of course — done such a comprehensive job of identifying them? Or more, of offering guidance to courts on how to deal with them?

  • Fascinating look into that world

  • I note that Canada (like the UK) has the system of “loser pays” -that is the losing party has to pay his own costs plus those of the other party.

    That seems to clear some litigants’ minds…

  • @John Burgess: It’s 13 years old, but the ADL hosts an exhaustive list called “Idiot Legal Arguments: A Casebook for Dealing with Extremist Legal Arguments” By Bernard J. Sussman, JD, MLS, CP.

    It is a good resource when you find yourself litigating against someone who claims the state and federal courts lack jurisdiction because he is an independent sovereign or a citizen of Oceania.

  • @thufir_hawat: Thanks!

  • Another US case was published in the NY Law Journal (I could not find the link on the NY Slip Decisions page. The cite in the paper is 2720 Realty Co v. Williams; L&T 077392/12, MYLJ 1202570222814, at*1 (Cov., KI, Decided August 31, 2012).

    It focuses on the “payment” methods of sovereign citizens. There are references to various US sources for more information on these movements. It is not as long or as comprehensive as the Canadian case, but it is still helpful to understand these people’s methods and backgrounds.

  • If I were a judge, I’d proceed as follows:

    “Sir, your comments lead me to believe that you are a ‘freeman’ or other individual who does not accept the jurisdiction of this court. Is that the case? And you must answer yes or no.”

    If they say “no”, then it’s easy. It’s simply put on the record that the person rejects the jurisdiction of the court — the judge might even ask for a statement why. Then the court makes a finding of jurisdiction. Then the court proceeds, and the ‘freeman’ is not allowed to speak further.


    If the person says “yes”, try proceeding as normal. If they still do the ‘freeman’ dance, MAKE A JUDICIAL FINDING that they reject the jurisdiction of the court. And proceed.

    The court should not entertain too much of this.