A reader recently asked me for advice on persuading a loved one to stop believing the personal sovereignty / straw man / redemption theory / UCC-as-supreme-law-of-land hogwash. I’ve written about this at least a couple of times, here and here. It’s frustrating because people who subscribe to this particular delusion think that all lawyers are conspiring to conceal The Truth, which the people have paid good money to learn. Any evidence to the contrary is seen as proof of the conspiracy.
When I heard about Google Scholar making caselaw searchable for free, and therefore more accessible (and less magical) to nonlawyers, I wondered whether Google Scholar might help save ordinary people from the personal sovereignty delusion.
So I did a Gogle Scholar search on some key personal-sovereignty words: “sovereign citizen,” and hit on U.S. v. Sloan, in which Mr. Sloan’s four-month federal tax evasion sentence was affirmed despite
his contention that he is not a citizen of the United States, but rather, that he is a freeborn, natural individual, a citizen of the State of Indiana, and a “master” — not “servant” — of his government.
Couple notes: first, I knew what magic words to look for; the layperson might not (legal research strategies are something learned in law school and beyond). Second, I knew to look at Sloan because, as a lawyer, I know that “U.S. v. ____” is most likely a criminal case; the layperson might not realize that and so might waste time on other cases.
What a lawyer would glean from U.S. v. Sloan is that personal-sovereignty nonsense is no defense to tax evasion charges; what a person suffering from the personal-sovereignty delusion would glean, if he found it, is a different matter: would he understand the significance of a Seventh-Circuit opinion? More importantly, would he, suffering from the delusion, conclude that if Mr. Sloan had used the exact magic words that the researcher had paid to learn, Mr. Sloan’s bid not to pay income taxes would have succeeded?
Another personal-sovereignty shibboleth is that “HJR 192” had some magical effect on the straw man. A search for HJR 192 turned up, among many others, U.S. v. Singleton, an opinion out of the Northern District of Illinois, in which Mr. Singleton El had asserted, among other things that:
(1) this Court lacks jurisdiction and can be held liable in tort for acting without jurisdiction;
(2) “Anthony Singleton El (correctly spelled, upper and lower case letters), the undisclosed principal, pursuant to UCC 1.201 and HJR 192 of June 5, 1933, is exempt from Levy, Non-Military, Non-Assumpsit, and Non-Corporate/Commercial Activities”;
(3) he is a Kushite governed by natural law, the great law of peace, the organic 1791 Constitution, and the Kushite (African) principles of existence; and
(4) the “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, INCORPORATED (also known as the 1863 United States Rights Republic USA) is a foreign, fictitious, Military, and Corporate/Commercial entity to the lands of the Americas, operating, existing, and controlled under the CATHOLIC MAGNA CARTA, the KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS CODE, THE KU KLUX KLAN OATH, and the unlawful amendments of the original 1791 Constitution.”
As a result, the trial court had ordered a competency evaluation. Mr. Singleton was found competent to stand trial. Mr. Singleton waived his own presence at trial. The court rejected all of Mr. Singleton’s “highly dubious propositions.”
One of the gurus of personal sovereignty is Winston Shrout. I looked up “Winston Shrout” in Google Scholar, and found this civil case out of Utah, in which, after Shrout was sued, he filed a “notice of filing . . . re: refusal for cause”:
“Please file this refusal for cause in the case jacket of CASE NUMBER 2:04CV00152 TS. This is evidence if this presenter claims I have obligations to perform or makes false claims against me in the future. A copy of this instruction has been sent with the original refusal for cause to the presenter in a timely fashion.”
The judge struck the document and ordered Shrout to file an answer to the complaint.
(Later, a judgment for $47,419.24 was entered against Mr. Shrout—Shrout couldn’t make his hogwash work for himself. In a similar case, a judgment for $27,449.58 was entered against Mr. Shrout. In a third case, Mr. Shrout was the plaintiff, suing Ronald Apfelbaum. Or not really suing, but filing a “Commercial Notice of Amended Complaint Bill in Equity.” The complaint was dismissed by the court within four months of filing. But I digress—that information is from PACER, which is available by subscription only.)
I suspect that even with the wealth of the Common Law available to people who might otherwise become victims of the Personal Sovereignty / Redemption Theory / Moorish Nation / Natural Sovereignty Delusion, they will still likely become victims of that delusion; they may be even more likely to become victims, since Google Scholar makes available even more law that can be taken out of context to “prove” the nonsense of Shrout and his ilk.
A problem with delusions is confirmation bias writ large. While all of us suffer confirmation bias, seeing evidence in the light most favorable to our preconceptions, most of us can be convinced by sufficiently strong evidence that our beliefs were incorrect. Delusive people are are impervious to any evidence. For the delusive person, any case either confirms the delusive “truth,” or proves that there is a conspiracy to hide that truth. Sloan’s, Singleton-El’s, and Shrout’s cautionary tales, as well as the wealth of other proof now easily accessible via Google Scholar that these theories are false, will not convince those who have already entered the delusion, but may save those who are thinking of entering into the delusion that it’s a lousy idea.