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Fed-Up Judges Scold ‘Sovereign’ Defendants in Three States

Judges overseeing cases involving so-called “sovereign citizens” put up with a lot of guff. 

As defendants, sovereigns routinely claim that courts have no jurisdiction over them, insist they are not people in the legal sense of the term (whatever that means), and pummel judges with nonsensical pleadings premised on historical arcana and conspiracist misreadings of the Constitution, among other historical documents. And when things don’t go their way, sovereigns are given to filing false property liens that can cause real problems for those they target. 

In recent months, several judges have shown that their willingness to tolerate sovereign shenanigans only goes so far. 

Perhaps the most eloquent sovereign smackdown was issued by Judge Richard Posner, a famously outspoken member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago who presided over the jury trial of self-proclaimed sovereign Hakeem El Bey. El Bey, who was charged with defrauding the IRS of $1.8 million between 2006 and 2010, cited the Stamp Act of 1765 and the “Sovereign Orders of the Queen” in a garbled attempt to prove he is not subject to tax law.

But Posner would have none of it.

“There were no federal taxes that the Act could have relieved Americans from having to pay. The sovereign of Britain at the time was a King, not a Queen; the King’s wife (Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz) was Great Britain’s Queen but had no governmental authority,” the judge wrote on Feb. 20. “If as is increasingly becoming apparent, the defendant refuses to refrain from injecting utterly irrelevant, patently inaccurate, and sometimes unintelligible contentions into this case, I will not be able to allow him to represent himself at the trial.”

Meanwhile, Calhoun County, Ala., Circuit Judge Bud Turner on Jan. 28 responded to repeated outbursts by sovereign defendant Leon Stout by instructing his bailiff to “get some masking tape and put it on his mouth.” Stout, 73, and his common-law wife Miriam Claire Schultz, 69, had been arraigned on multiple felony charges including filing fraudulent liens and attempting to extort businesses to the tune of $1.6 million. But Turner did not carry out the threat to use tape and instead directed officers to remove Stout from the courtroom after the man nonsensically pleaded “abatement” and said extortion laws do not apply to him.

And in Illinois, First District Appellate Justice Mathias W. Delort on Jan. 12 wrote a special concurrence with an opinion denying sovereign citizen John C. Justice’s appeal, opining that the state should fine defendants “espous[ing] … theories which are not merely incorrect, but which have been manifestly rejected by hundreds of years of American jurisprudence.” Justice, who was appealing a 2012 verdict penalizing his business for environmental violations and other wrongdoing, declared that he had the power to “remove” the judge and insisted that debts can only be paid in gold or silver. Asserting that sovereigns employ such tactics “simply to harass the judges, lawyers, and others involved in litigation,” Delort called for the imposition of “substantial monetary sanctions.”