“SOVEREIGN CITIZENS” | Key Points
- The sovereign citizen movement (“the Movement”) is an American movement thought to have begun nearly 50 years ago due in great part to the combination of economic hardship suffered by its members and anti-government sentiment. Sovereign citizens espouse a conspiracy theory based on the belief that the “legitimate” U.S. government, described as “a utopian minimalist government which never interfered with the citizenry,” was infiltrated and subverted “with an illegitimate, tyrannical government.” Sovereign citizens “eschew taxes, Social Security, and almost all licenses, registrations and permits.” Based on the government’s alleged lack of jurisdiction over them, they “rationalize disobeying or ignoring virtually any law or regulation.”
- In the past couple decades, the foreclosure industry has suffered adverse consequences from the Movement as sovereign citizens “use the law as weapons” by filing voluminous meritless documents, “false liens, false tax documents or spurious lawsuits” in an attempt to prevent foreclosure or to punish those involved in the foreclosure of their properties. There are many examples where sovereigns have successfully delayed proceedings and harassed participants including the parties, attorneys and even the judges involved in a proceeding.
- Although there does not appear to be a clear end in sight, awareness about this Movement is increasing and the government is acting to remedy the situation. An ABA article explained that at least 17 states now permit recording offices to “refuse to accept bogus filings or expunge them from the record after filing.” Some states offer expedited judicial relief for addressing fraudulent liens and others make filing a false lien a crime. Judges are also becoming savvy to the Movement and its schemes, and can often stymie meritless claims and tactics intended to delay and harass at the onset of a case. We anticipate there will be more to come on this topic.