There is undoubtedly a growing reliance by some on what can only be described as codswallop in the defence of civil and criminal proceedings as well as in their pursuance of such proceedings against individuals and the state. I am, of course, referring to the growing Freemen-on-the-Land (FOTL) movement and other similar movements. Their dangerous pseudolegal arguments are resulting in serious harm to people who are quite often vulnerable.
A lot has been written about the movement on blogs, particularly after the Guardian published one of their incredibly dangerous theories in its “Comment is free” section. The reaction from lawyers who commented was, unsurprisingly, unanimous in its conclusions that it was dangerous and legally inaccurate information. It’s not unsurprising because, as a Freeman would suggest, they are part of the fraud that is the system; but rather it is unsurprising because the simple fact is that the arguments deployed by these people are nonsense.
I have been aware of this movement for a couple of years now and have had a great deal of enjoyment listening to the rubbish that their “experts” expel as fact. I, and others, may laugh at this nonsense, but the truth is that many people up and down the country are being taken in by this fiction and it is having a considerable negative effect on their life. When one remembers this the laughter soon dries up and it is replaced with a sense of anger that these “experts” are causing so much damage to vulnerable people in our society.
There are many different groups which adhere to the principles of the FOTL movement which go by various different names. However, in essence all the groups have one major shared characteristic: they all argue that he state (and its instruments) have no authority over them. The most common things that I have observed about these movements is that they will often adopt a split personality which argues that they (a human-being) are an agent or representative of a legal fiction (a corporation) which shares the same name as they do. They place arbitrary distinctions between their name written in lower-case and their name written in upper-case. Associate Chief Justice J.D. Rooke (Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, Canada) has issued lengthy judgment dealing with the freeman nonsense that he sees in his court on a fairly regular basis. The Respondent in the case in question deployed some of the FOTL arguments (or OPCA arguments as Associate Chief Justice Rooke styles them).
The judgment referred to above is lengthy, but is sets out in great detail the various types of arguments deployed by FOTL types and refutes them (using Canadian law, naturally). However, his excellent explanations of the various types of arguments deployed are an excellent resource for lawyers and judges the world over who are increasingly coming up against this codswallop. From there it doesn’t take too much to apply the law of England and Wales, Scotland, Australia or wherever necessary to refute the arguments being advanced.
There is, however, a much more serious issue and that is the effect that these things have on people’s lives. The “experts” from these movements will tell you that it works. However, it is clear that it does not. There are examples of where people have deployed these arguments and their desired outcome has been the result. However, that is not as a result of their arguments (as much as their “experts” might suggest that it is). Debt recovery is an area where these arguments are frequently deployed and are where a number of “success” stories come from. However, the more logical (and more likely) explanation for these apparent successes is that the company in question looks at the case and decides that to try and recover the debt through the courts is going to be too costly and it’s probably better just to take the “hit”. FOTL types have argued in the past that the creditor knows that what they are doing is illegal and they back down because the debtor knows and understands “the truth”.
I have yet to come across a single reported case which shows a court accepting a FOTL argument. Equally, I cannot find any reported cases in Scotland or England where the arguments have been rejected (although I am sure there are plenty in reality). However, Associate Chief justice Rooke provides a considerable number of reported cases in Canada where the arguments of the FOTL types have been rejected by the Courts.
The circular nature of the FOTL type arguments is such that even if there was an abundance of reported authority rejected their arguments it would do little to stop the courts facing such arguments. The FOTL types will simply put this down to part of the big fraud that they think they’ve uncovered and are fighting against.
The real sadness of all this is that vulnerable people in a desperate situation who are willing to try anything to get out of the situation they find themselves in are being duped and are suffering as a result of this nonsense.
The law is not the enemy of protest but an essential tool of impartiality, Carl Gardner
We are the change: welfare, education and law at the Occupy camp, Comment is Free
The freeman-on-the-land strategy is no magic bullet for debt problems, LegalBizzle
Occupy Woo Street, LegalBizzle
Comment is free, but woo is sacred, LegalBizzle
Further adventures in woo, LegalBizzle
Meads v Meads, 2012 ABQB 571 (Associate Cheif Justice Rooke’s judgment)