Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
I have to admit that I knew very little about the sovereign citizen movement before I read a New York times article a couple of days ago that opened my eyes to the movement and how some in that movement have attacked government officials and civil service workers. To fully understand how members of the sovereign citizens movement think, one must know a little about their beliefs.
“Sovereign citizens believe that in the 1800s, the federal government was gradually subverted and replaced by an illegitimate government. They create their own driver’s licenses and include their thumbprints on documents to distinguish their flesh and blood person from a “straw man” persona that they say has been created by the false government. When writing their names, they often add punctuation marks like colons or hyphens.” New York Times
In response to some legitimate concerns over mortgage foreclosure abuses and in response to some imagined governmental abuses, some sovereign citizens members have taken to filing liens against many government officials and these liens negatively impact the personal credit records of these officials and government workers.
One couple in Minnesota have filed over $250 Billion in liens in just a few years. “But as Sheriff Stanek soon learned, the liens, legal claims on property to secure the payment of a debt, were just the earliest salvos in a war of paper, waged by a couple who had lost their home to foreclosure in 2009 — a tactic that, with the spread of an anti-government ideology known as the “sovereign citizen” movement, is being employed more frequently as a way to retaliate against perceived injustices.
Over the next three years, the couple, Thomas and Lisa Eilertson, filed more than $250 billion in liens, demands for compensatory damages and other claims against more than a dozen people, including the sheriff, county attorneys, the Hennepin County registrar of titles and other court officials.” New York Times
How can one couple file $250 billion in liens? It may surprise you that in most states any party can file a lien. When a claim for a lien is filed and litigated, the facts and evidence will decide whether the lien is valid. However, how does one go about dealing with liens on your home in the billions? The time and effort to litigate and clean the title can cost the victims thousands in attorney fees and delay sales and refinances of real estate, not to mention the damage done to victim’s credit ratings.
The FBI has now gotten involved into the false lien filing business and considers the massive filings as a type of “paper terrorism”. This is one of the few times lately that I agree with the FBI. I find it hard to imagine receiving a title commitment for a sale of my home and reading that someone has filed millions of dollars of liens against the property. How would you react when you discover millions of dollars in unfounded liens have been placed against the title of your home?
This paper war seems to be increasing across the entire nation. “In Gadsden, Ala., three people were arrested in July for filing liens against victims including the local district attorney and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew. And in Illinois this month, a woman who, like most sovereign citizens, chose to represent herself in court, confounded a federal judge by asking him to rule on a flurry of unintelligible motions.
“I hesitate to rank your statements in order of just how bizarre they are,” the judge told the woman, who was facing charges of filing billions of dollars in false liens.
“The convergence of the evidence strongly suggests a movement that is flourishing,” said Mark Pitcavage, the director of investigative research for the Anti-Defamation League. “It is present in every single state in the country.” New York Times
The Illinois case noted above is an especially enlightening case that involved some very high-profile victims of a similar lien filing attack. “Phillips faces charges that she targeted Fitzgerald, then-Chief Judge James Holderman and other federal judges, prosecutors and court officials by filing bogus liens on their homes in 2011 that sought tens of billions of dollars.
Prosecutors allege Phillips was retaliating after she was physically barred from the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse and forbidden from filing documents on behalf of her brother, Devon, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to drug conspiracy charges.
Her trial features a star-studded cast of witnesses — in legal circles, anyway — with Fitzgerald, Holderman and U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow potentially taking the stand. It was the murder of Lefkow’s husband and mother in 2005 by a crazed litigant that led to a greater sensitivity for the security of federal officials in Chicago.
Phillips, 43, who also goes by the name of River Tali El Bey, has professed in court that she doesn’t recognize the federal system. Her court filings reflect the ideology of sovereign citizens, a rapidly expanding anti-government movement whose adherents often file nonsensical, complex legal documents and refuse to accept or follow court rules.” Chicago Tribune
The Fitzgerald referred to in the Tribune quote was Patrick Fitzgerald, the former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. The sovereign citizen movement has been around since at least the 1990’s, but these paper attacks are a more recent tactic that has succeeded in clogging court dockets and harming the personal credit of many people. As the states start writing laws to toughen the penalties for filing false lien claims, the sovereign citizens are continuing to make life miserable for many, good intentioned government officials.
Do you agree with the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center that these tactics constitute paper terrorism? I think if you ask the victims, they might agree that they have been terrorized. What can be done to stop these attacks? Will education of the public about this alleged movement aid in preventing these kind of abusive filings?
In my opinion, I think states should be careful when they are rewriting laws to toughen the penalties for false filings, because if they do not enforce these same laws against the robo signing tactics of some banksters; these types of attacks may continue no matter how the States change or amend their criminal statutes. What do you think? I think I may have to do a title search of my home after this article!