Pseudolaw - Part 3
Contrarian Nuisance or Existential Threat
In this third and final part of my examination of the pseudolaw phenomenon I consider the relationship between the Sovereign Citizen phenomenon (I would hardly classify it as a movement) and the use of pseudolaw. Pseudolaw arguments are often classified as “SovCit” arguments in in some cases that is correct but not all those who advance pseudolaw argument are adherents of Sovereign Citizen beliefs, and the relationship is rather more nuanced that a “one size fits all” stereotype.
I go on to consider how pseudolaw arguments can be dealt with in the Courtroom context and I think it would be fair to say that most Judges are becoming familiar with the stratagems that are available.
Finally in the conclusion I shall consider the question of the political orientation of those advancing pseudolaw arguments. The highly questionable authority of the Disinformation Project along with a populist and poorly researched work by Byron Clark aligns pseudolaw with the Right of the political spectrum. This view is endorsed by Young et al. I shall suggest to the contrary and that the evidence suggests that pseudolaw is more aligned with the Radical Left and with notions of indigenous sovereignty.
Pseudolaw and Sovereign Citizens
It will be noted that in some of the cases referred to pseudolaw arguments are equated with or at least associated with the Sovereign Citizen movement – see Beresford, Ricks and James as well as in Republic Arms Ltd v Corporation Trading as New Zealand Police  NZHC 3185. This connection is made by Young et al where they observe
“Pseudolaw existed pre-COVID-19, but it has become more prominent through the rise of misinformation and disinformation and the growth of the Sovereign Citizen or ‘SovCit’ movement.” (P. 7)
The association is also referred to – albeit glancingly – by Rooke ACJ in Meads.
Before looking at what association, if any, there might be between pseudolaw and Sovereign Citizens I shall now give a brief overview of the Sovereign Citizen movement (if it can be called that)
Sovereign Citizens Examined
The Sovereign Citizen movement, also known as the Freeman-on-the-Land movement, has gained some attention in various countries around the world, including New Zealand. While the movement does not have a large following in this country, it has sparked some controversy and legal challenges.
Origins and Ideology
The Sovereign Citizen movement originated in the United States in the 1970s and has since spread to other countries, including New Zealand. The movement is based on a set of beliefs and ideologies that reject the legitimacy of government authority and laws.
Sovereign Citizens believe that they possess inherent rights that supersede those of the state, and they often claim to operate under their interpretation of common law or natural law.
Sovereign Citizens hold various beliefs that challenge the authority of the government.
Some of these beliefs include:
Legal Status: They claim that the current legal system is illegitimate and that they are not subject to its jurisdiction. They often assert that statutes and regulations only apply to them if they voluntarily consent to them.
Identity and Citizenship: Sovereign Citizens sometimes question their legal identity and citizenship, arguing that their birth certificates and social security numbers make them subject to commercial laws rather than common law.
Contracts and Obligations: They contend that all interactions with the government and other entities are contractual in nature and can be avoided or invalidated if certain procedures are followed. They may attempt to use various legal loopholes to challenge legal proceedings or debts.
Currency and Taxes: Sovereign Citizens frequently reject the legitimacy of the current monetary system and refuse to pay taxes, arguing that they are not subject to taxation without their consent.
Activities and Challenges in New Zealand
While the Sovereign Citizen movement in New Zealand is relatively small compared to some other countries, it has gained some attention and has presented challenges to the legal system. Here are some notable activities and challenges:
1. Filings and Legal Tactics: Sovereign Citizens in New Zealand have been known to file frivolous legal documents or make unusual legal arguments in court, often based on their interpretation of common law. These tactics are aimed at challenging legal proceedings, delaying evictions, or avoiding fines or penalties.
2. Traffic Incidents and Fines: Some Sovereign Citizens have been involved in traffic incidents and subsequently refused to accept responsibility for their actions or pay fines, citing their beliefs in legal arguments. This has led to confrontations with law enforcement and further legal action.
3. Land and Property Disputes: Sovereign Citizens have occasionally claimed ownership of land or properties based on their interpretation of historical events or their understanding of legal concepts. These claims have resulted in disputes with legitimate landowners or government authorities.
4. Legal Consequences: New Zealand courts have generally dismissed the arguments put forth by Sovereign Citizens, considering them to be frivolous or legally unfounded. Those who have attempted to use Sovereign Citizen tactics to evade legal obligations or responsibilities have faced negative consequences, including fines, penalties, or even imprisonment.