As federal cases against the antigovernment extremists who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon moves into the courts, half-cracked common law attorneys are trying to get in on the case.
Two antigovernment extremists, sounding very much like antigovernment “sovereign citizens,” are attempting to intervene in the federal case stemming from the 41-day illegal occupation of an Oregon wildlife preserve.
Ronald Vrooman, who calls himself a “private attorney general,” and James “Jimi” O’Hagan, acting as a “legal intervener,” have both filed paperwork with the U.S. District Court in Portland, seeking to participate in the case brought against Ammon Bundy and 25 others.
But federal Judge Anna Brown is having none of it.
Not only did the federal judge recently refuse to grant the pair legal standing in the case, she ordered the court clerk to return their “legal” paperwork and refuse to accept anything further from anyone advocating “common law courts.”
“When the Court receives any submission for this matter that is not from a named party or any attorney admitted to the Bar of this Court representing a named party, the Court directs the Clerk to return the document to the sender with a copy of this Order or seek further direction from this Court as to any particular nonparty submission,” Brown wrote in her court order.
O’Hagan filed paperwork last month seeking to be an “intervener” in the case and assist Bundy and the other defendants. He said he doesn’t view Bundy and the other current defendants as criminals, rather “whistle-blowers who tried to make a point about government over-reach” when they occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year.
“I will be asking her to reconsider,” O’Hagan, a 61-year-old cranberry farmer from Grayland, Wash., told Hatewatch when he was informed of the judge’s action.
O’Hagan also filed legal papers with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an attempt to re-open the rejected appeal of two Harney County, Ore., ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, whose convictions and sentences led to the refuge occupation.
Sovereign citizens frequently act as their own lawyers, sometimes filing a flurry of legal motions and briefs, many of which are nonsensical and spurious, that amounts to what is often called “paper terrorism.”
In late February, Vrooman went to a court hearing for Ammon Bundy and his fellow defendants. He stood up in court and told the judge he was a “private attorney general.” The judge told him to return to his seat before entering a court order barring any further meddling.
“The Court has received and reviewed communications from Ronald Vrooman, a member of the public who requested in open court during proceedings on Feb. 24, 2016, to participate in this matter as a ‘private attorney general,’” the judge said.
The federal judge said Vrooman “is neither a named defendant nor is he an attorney admitted to the bar of the Court in an attorney-client relationship with a named Defendant in the case.”
Vrooman couldn’t be reached for comment. Meanwhile, O’Hagan wasn’t at a loss for words in describing in the federal judge’s actions and his unbridled contempt for judges and attorneys.
Filing his own legal paperwork and fighting what he calls “the corruption within the judiciary” is nothing new for O’Hagan. For several years, he has been involved in a war with attorneys, judges and the legal system.
O’Hagan currently has two voter initiative petitions pending with the Washington Secretary of State. One filed in late March calls “for the removal of all state bar members who have infiltrated the legislative and executive branches of our government to make laws to make money from creating arguments between men and women.”
“I guess I consider myself a ‘sovereign,’” he responded when asked if he was a “sovereign citizen.”
“I acknowledge there are federal and state laws that we need to abide by,” O’Hagan said, “but I question whether and how these laws apply when we’re living in a corporate United States.”
O’Hagan said he spent several days at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, meeting with Ammon Bundy and other occupiers, including Robert LaVoy Finicum, who was killed on Jan. 26 at a police roadblock.
O’Hagan currently doesn’t face any criminal charges in connection with the time he spent at the refuge.
“I don’t consider myself an ‘occupier,’” he said. “I didn’t go there with a gun, but with a pen to investigate government over-reach.”
Besides attracting antigovernment extremists and militias, the Malheur occupation also was a magnet for those who believe they can use fictitious common law courts to bring criminal charges against public officials.
Bruce Doucette, a self-proclaimed “U.S. Superior Court judge” from Denver, went to the Oregon refuge in mid-January, pledging to “review evidence that public officials may have committed crimes.” That effort apparently went nowhere, and days later, Ammon Bundy and other occupation leaders were arrested.
If sovereign citizens and self-declared laywers are an issue in Oregon, the State Attorney General’s office didn’t want to talk about it, declining comment through a spokeswoman.
The Oregon State Bar Association has a 16-member Unlicensed Practice of Law Committee that deals with sovereign citizens and other non-lawyers who attempt to be attorneys. David Doughman, chair of committee, told Hatewatch that "paper terrorism" from sovereign citizens is a "real issue” and applauded judge's order.
"The arguments presented are generally incoherent and are wholly unmoored from any recognized American jurisprudence," Doughman said. "I give Judge Brown credit for issuing an order to the court's clerks office directing it to reject such filings. Courts are already heavily burdened with legitimate pleadings from those authorized to file them."