An article on NJ.com takes a hard look at an influx of “sovereign citizen” cases that are currently clogging the courtrooms. The sovereign citizen movement, named by federal agencies as one of the fastest-growing domestic terror threats, has landed in New Jersey at full speed, taking the state judicial system by a storm.
Law enforcement and other government employees have been forced to confront the sovereign citizen movement head-on — often after becoming victims of the group’s bizarre lawfare tactics such as filing false liens in the courts to adversely affect the credit reports of their targets. Mark Potok, a senior fellow from the Southern Poverty Law Center, explained to NJ.com the paradox of the sovereign citizens beliefs – “They believe these judges have no jurisdiction, or believe they are purposely subverting it,” said Potok. “So they go after judges, court clerks and the like.”
Even though sovereign citizens believe the courts and its officers have no jurisdiction to prosecute them or enforce the law, they often turn to the courts to commit harassment and wreak “legal” havoc, exacting revenge against the government officials they believe have wronged them:
One of the means of harassment commonly used against judges and other court officials is the commercial lien, also known as a “mechanic’s lien,” which is intended to allow laborers to seek compensation from those who haven’t paid them for their services.
According to Potok, sovereign citizens seeking retribution from court officials will often file such a lien on a judge’s home, forcing them to potentially spend thousands of dollars to clear their title.
“The court clerk could receive it and file it without giving it another thought, and then it wouldn’t come up again until the judge tries to sell his or her home,” he said. “Since this started happening, about 20 states have passed new laws, or strengthened existing ones, in an effort to curb false liens.”
Although the term “sovereign citizen” is relatively new, only dating back to around 2011 when the FBI first began profiling the group as a threat to law enforcement agencies, the general principles of the group dates back a while. Potok explains that the current sovereign citizen movement could be considered a spin-off of sorts. “There was a similar wave with what was called the Montana Freemen in the 1990s,” he added. “The popular term now is sovereign citizen, but this happened before during the Clinton administration as well.”