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.
Daniel Gross reports on a doughty band of tax protesters who insist that they are not actually obliged by law to engage in payroll tax withholding, and quotes our editor as describing this position as arising from “folk law”, in the form of legal claims that “bubbled up without any encouragement from the legal profession.” (“America’s Oddest Tax Dodge – Can Section 861 of the Internal Revenue Code save you from income taxes?”, Slate/MSNBC, Jul. 30).