Practice Tips, by Dave Bilinsky, Practice Management Advisor
The Freeman-on-the-Land movement
we don’t need you
or your rules – this is ours
there’s something to die for…
Lyrics, music and recorded by Integrity
Who are the Freeman-on-the-Land?
This is a new movement that has important implications for both lawyers and notaries. It is not just another fringe group in society. Freeman-on-the-Land is listed on the FBI’s domestic terror watchlist (www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/september-2011/sovereign-citizens). People who have been linked to this movement include Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh (of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing).
According to the FBI: “Since 2000, lone-offender sovereign-citizen extremists have killed six law enforcement officers. In 2010, two Arkansas police officers stopped sovereign-citizen extremists Jerry Kane and his 16-year-old son Joseph during a routine traffic stop on Interstate 40. Joseph Kane jumped out of the vehicle and opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle, killing both officers.”
These are not just people with extremist views
“Freemen” (or Sovereign Citizens, Living Souls or Natural Persons, as they sometimes call themselves) believe that all statute law is contractual. They further believe that law only governs them if they choose or consent to be governed. By implication, they believe that, by not consenting, they can hold themselves independent of government jurisdiction. These individuals believe that they can live under “common (case) law” and “natural laws” (per Wikipedia).
Freemen may number up to 30,000 in Canada and hundreds of thousands in the United States. They believe they can avoid taxes, mortgages, utility bills and more. They state that they have an unfettered right to travel (hence their belief that they do not need driver’s licences, licence plates or insurance). They believe that government-issued identification is somehow different from the “natural person.” They commonly list their names in the format of “First:Last” (using a colon in between). They are loosely affiliated with Canadian “detaxers,” whose tenet is that income taxes do not have to be paid to the government.
Freeman-on-the-Land follows a common formula. Symbols that are associated with the movement, and which are found on their documents, include: Biblical references and religious threats, postage stamps placed on documents, Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) citations in the US, fingerprints and “blood seals” affixed to documents. They use names for documents that are either obscure or not recognized in any legal text.
Claims of the Freeman movement
Freemen claim that the US government (and, in Canada, the Bank of Canada) has established secret bank accounts for every person. This idea relies on their “theory of redemption.” For example (from www.policemag.com/channel/patrol/articles/2012/09/sovereign-citizens-a-clear-and-present-danger.aspx):
This theory claims that the United States went bankrupt in 1933 when it chose to no longer use the gold standard to back up its paper currency. Needing collateral to trade and conduct commerce with other countries, the United States began to use citizens as collateral to ensure the value of its money. Subsequently, secret bank accounts, containing millions of dollars, were supposedly established by the United States Treasury Department on behalf of each citizen, or “strawman,” used as collateral. Redemption is used as a gateway by sovereigns to commit various fraudulent acts all in an attempt to “redeem their strawman” and access these non-existent secret Treasury accounts to satisfy various debts, including mortgages, cars, and credit cards.
Notwithstanding that the Freemen reject the authority of the state, they do file many private prosecutions and claims of legal rights in the courts. Typically, they seek costs and orders against public officials, peace officers and whoever seems to be standing in their way:
The filing of frivolous lawsuits and liens against public officials, law enforcement officers and private citizens, on the other hand, has remained a favorite harassing strategy. These paper “attacks” intimidate their targets and have the beneficial side effect of clogging up a court system that sovereign citizens believe is illegitimate. Frivolous liens became such a problem in the 1990s that a majority of states were forced to pass new laws to make filing them illegal, their removal easier, or both. Today, eager sovereign citizens can use the Internet to download a variety of boilerplate forms and documents to wield against the government. More adventurous types can matriculate at “schools” such as the Erwin Rommel School of Law; additionally, a number of activists, ranging from David Wynn Miller to The Aware Group, hold seminars around the country to teach people — for a price — about the latest tactics and weapons. (www.adl.org/learn/ext_us/SCM.asp?LEARN_Cat=Extremism&LEARN_SubCat=Extremism_in_America& xpicked=4&item=sov)
Freemen rely on bogus documents, such as an “ecclesiastical notice of private agreement” (see www.scribd.com/doc/68105762/Ecclesiastical-Notice-of-Private-Agreement for an example of one such document against Clarke Burnett, in his capacity as a crown prosecutor) or a mandatariat (a demand made on a peace officer to produce his or her oath of office and qualifications to a Freeman).
They also seek to file liens against individuals, which can severely damage a person’s credit rating. Many individuals who have been the subject of these attacks seek to remove their names from public directories for their own protection. For example, in Meads v. Meads, 2012 ABQC 571, the cover page of the reasons for decision states:
Editorial Notice: On behalf of the Government of Alberta personal data identifiers have been removed from this unofficial electronic version of the judgment.
In Meads, Associate Chief Justice J.D. Rooke goes into great detail regarding the “Organized Pseudolegal Commerical Argument [“OPCA”] Litigants” and is an excellent review of the Freeman-on-the-Land movement and how it tries to disrupt court operations and frustrate the legal rights of governments, corporations and individuals.
These Freeman legal matters are also occurring in BC. BC Supreme Court Justice Dev Dley recently had to deal with one Darwin Sorenson, who would not identify himself and spoke of Freeman principles in court.
“I am a declared sovereign” and “My name is Darwin” was stated in court, according to Cam Fortems of the Kamloops Daily News on November 26, 2012. Darwin refused to step into the area of the court where litigants typically speak to the court, saying, “If I enter this area of the courtroom, do I have a contract with the court?” When Justice Dley warned Darwin that he would have him removed from the court, Darwin responded that this would cost the Justice a $30,000 fine.
In another case also before Justice Dley, another Freeman, Brian Alexander, had his appeal dismissed of a justice of the peace’s decision finding him guilty of failing to produce a valid driver’s licence. His appeal stated that the court had no jurisdiction.
How do lawyers and notaries fit into all this?
Freemen have attended law firm and notary offices, seeking to have their documents “notarized.” The documents have strange wordings, stamps, blood and finger seals, UCC and biblical references and the like. They are usually pseudo-legal and completely unlike any legal document that a lawyer or notary would draw or witness.
In one case in BC, a notary witnessed a series of documents with names such as a “Notice of Non Response,” a “Notarial Certificate of Dishonour” and a “Notarial Instrument of Protest,” which led to the creation of a “True Bill and Notice of Accounting” for the sum of $3.5 billion dollars. These were all stated to be against the BC Court of Appeal. In this case, the notary apparently witnessed the documents in her capacity as “Notary Acceptor.” She was disciplined by the Society of Notaries Public for breach of Rule 11.01 of the Notary Rules, and admitted that her conduct was contrary to the best interests of the public and the notarial profession.
Lest one believe that only notaries have witnessed and notarized these documents, there have been instances when BC lawyers too have been approached about acting in this capacity.
Since one of the tenets of the Freeman-on-the-Land movement is an unrestricted right to possess and use firearms, they raise significant safety and security concerns. They have been known to become angry when lawyers or notaries have refused to notarize their documents or when stopped by police officers.
The CBC did an excellent feature on the Freeman-on-the-Land movement that mentions an affidavit of truth: www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/02/29/freeman-movement-canada.html. It includes video of a Freeman acting up in court.
YouTube has a video showing a routine traffic stop of a “sovereign citizen” that ended in the death of the two peace officers involved: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sDAyGod5PM.
S. de Léséleuc in Criminal Victimization in the Workplace (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada, 2004 http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85f0033m/85f0033m2007013-eng.pdf) stated that 17 per cent of all self-reported violent crimes occurred at the victim’s place of work. That is over 356,000 incidents of violence in Canadian workplaces in a single year.
While the Freeman movement represents a small but potentially growing threat, there remains the possibility that a law office could face this or other type of security threat. Accordingly, there are two steps that law offices should consider and implement for the safety of their workers.
The first is to have a workplace security plan in place to deal with external threats to those in the office. This plan should include dealing with an angry and possibly armed individual entering the office. It should also extend to dealing with potential bomb threats, suspicious packages being delivered to the office, etc. Everyone in the office should be familiar with the plan and, like a fire drill, it should receive an occasional trial run to ensure that everyone understands their role and what is, and is not, to be done in the circumstances.
Examples of such security plans can be found at:
- University of Washington (www.washington.edu/admin/police/prevention/Workplace_Security_Plan_current.pdf)
- Michigan Workplace Security Resource Guide (http://www.michigan.gov/documents/CIS_WSH_security_73971_7.htm)
The second is to recognize when a Freeman or sovereign citizen is attending the office and asking to have documents executed, witnessed and/or notarized and to take appropriate action in the circumstances.
Lawyers should determine when they are being asked to notarize documents that they do not recognize and that appear to have no legal purpose. Lawyers should not be acting in a way that gives a patina of credibility to a pseudo-legal litigant. Above all, “A lawyer owes a duty to the state, to maintain its integrity and its law.” (Chapter 1, Rule 1(1) Canons of Legal Ethics – Professional Conduct Handbook).
Being prepared to deal with the Freeman-on-the-Land is simply prudent business planning. After all, notarizing a document isn’t something to die for.