The Witchfinder praises the courageous Canadian Judge J. D. Rooke for his judgement in Meads v Meads and calls for the enactment of new laws allowing for control of the so-called Freemen on the Land Movement (FMOTL) and the immediate fining and imprisonment of its ‘gurus’ who give fallacious advice, such as Veronica Chapman. Where vulnerable people are described, aspects such as the name and gender have been fictionalised.
To those who have not encountered it, it may initially be hard to understand why the transatlantic FMOTL movement inspires so much hatred amongst lawyers and members of the judiciary, even normally cuddly members of the Human Rights crowd. Allow me to use an analogy.
Imagine for a moment that there is a book on electrical wiring – ‘Wiring Is More Than Just A Word’. You can buy it from reputable bookshops like Amazon. Imagine that this book is glossy and professional looking, the book uses all the right words and is written in a persuasive and apparently erudite way. The book is bought mainly by the vulnerable and desperate who have electrical problems and sit at home in the cold and the dark. Imagine its author is trusted, respected and looked up to by the poor souls who read her work.
Now consider what would happen if the instructions in the book were utterly, totally and horribly wrong. Picture a situation where the words are all correct but the explanation of their meaning is all wrong. “Voltage is very important. You must wire as much voltage as possible directly to your genitals in order to protect yourself from the Ohm conspiracy. Under no circumstances must you listen to any electricians. All electricians are evil and in league with Ohms. And bankers. Whatever you do, never, EVER wire up the earth wire as this may allow your voltage to be stolen by amperes. Instead you should attach the wire marked LIVE to the BATHTUB.”
Imagine that large numbers of vulnerable people buy the book and follow these instructions. To the letter. Tragedy ensues.
Freemen-On-The-Land is an American movement that has crossed the channel in recent years. It does exactly as I describe in my electrician example, only with laws. The results are a terrifying, never-ending torrent of human misery and despair.
Made up of the vulnerable, the desperate and the occasional predator, FMOTL teaches its adherents that the law of the land, as it is understood by judges, lawyers, legal academics and ordinary people is wrong and that by following a series of bizarre loopholes and procedures they can avoid laws they do not find convenient.
So, turning back to Meads v Meads, a divorce case heard in Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta –
“ This Court has developed a new awareness and understanding of a category of vexatious litigant. As we shall see, while there is often a lack of homogeneity, and some individuals or groups have no name or special identity, they (by their own admission or by descriptions given by others) often fall into the following descriptions: Detaxers; Freemen or Freemen-on-the-Land; Sovereign Men or Sovereign Citizens; Church of the Ecumenical Redemption International (CERI); Moorish Law; and other labels – there is no closed list. In the absence of a better moniker, I have collectively labelled them as Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument litigants [“OPCA litigants”],”
The judge says they are vexatious litigants. All of them. Not a promising start for the ‘landers. What do these people actually do, that causes such a stark reaction?
The judgement continues,
“ Review of the divorce file discloses a number of unusual documents filed by Mr. Meads:
February 15, 2011: Mr. Meads filed a one page notarized document, printed in black and red ink, and marked with what may be a red thumb print. It also bears postage stamps in three corners on front and back, and includes various declarations including that “::dennis-larry:meads::” is a “living flesh and blood sentient-man”, a postmaster general, and that Barb Petryk, a clerk of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, is appointed his fiduciary and is liable for “all financial damages and bodily harm against myself ::dennis-larry:: of the meads-family::”.
Mr. Meads then purports to “…do here and now Adjourn this instant matter until further notice, from my office.”
March 3, 2011: Mr. Meads filed a second one page notarized document, in black, red, orange, and blue ink. Again, it has unusual formalities such as a red thumb print. This document is directed to “Audrey Hardwick/AUDREY HARDWICK BEING A CORPORATE ENTITY”, and in part is a “Notice for a Cease and Desist” in “Enticement in Slavery”, that threatens criminal charges, and “FULL COMMERCIAL LIABILITY AND YOUR UNLIMITED CIVIL LIABILITY”. This one is signed “:::dennis-larry:: of the meads-family:::”.”
The documents illustrate several of the more lunatic views of the FMOTL cultists. Essentially, they believe that spelling their name in strange ways allows them to refuse or escape liability to participate in court processes. They also believe that individuals can be separated from their legal persona, again for the purposes of escaping debt. The variations on this theme differ from loon to loon but can include different colour inks, colons, capitalisation and names of the form, “A Muppet of the family Muppet”
What does the judge have to say about these arguments,
“ Though I will later return to this hearing at various points in these Reasons, I will now briefly outline my understanding of the meaning of certain of Mr. Meads’ actions and statements:
1. Mr. Meads clearly subscribes to the OPCA concept that he has two aspects, what I later discuss as the ‘double/split person’ concept. The German folk term “doppelganger”, a kind of paranormal double, is a useful concept to describe this curious duality. Mr. Meads labels one aspect as a “person” or “corporate entity” while the other is his “flesh and blood” form.
2. Mr. Meads also subscribes to the theory that almost any interaction with the court or state can result in a binding contract. That is why he was so apprehensive about accepting my proposal to order disclosure from Ms. Meads – that apparently benign act would allegedly bind him in contract to this Court’s authority.
3. The reference to Admiralty Law relates to an OPCA concept that there are two kinds of law, “common law” and “admiralty law”, and Mr. Meads rejected application of the latter to himself.
4. The discussion of the alleged source of funds to discharge his child and spousal support obligations, a bank account related to his birth certificate, indicates Mr. Meads has advanced a ‘money for nothing’ scheme called “A4V”.
These are all, of course, nonsense.“
The judge calls it nonsense, even pointing out how the wrong beliefs of Mr Meads caused him to object to an order in his favour, requiring Mrs Meads to disclose financial information.
He goes on to list many, highly amusing, crazed FMOTL beliefs and tactics. I will take a sample of the funniest and most destructive.
“ Stated simply, Freemen-on-the-Land believe they can ‘opt out’ of societal obligations and do as they like: Harper v. Atchison, 2011 SKQB 38 (CanLII), 2011 SKQB 38 at paras. 6, 15, 369 Sask.R. 134; R. v. McCormick, 2012 NSCA 58 (CanLII), 2012 NSCA 58 at paras. 19, 21; R. v. McCormick, 2012 NSSC 288 (CanLII), 2012 NSSC 288 at paras. 28-32. A common theme in Freeman arguments is that state and court action requires the target’s consent, for example: Jabez Financial Services Inc. (Receiver of) v. Sponagle, 2008 NSSC 112 (CanLII), 2008 NSSC 112 at para. 14, 264 N.S.R. (2d) 224.”
“ Alarmingly, certain members of the Freeman-on-the-Land movement believe they have an unrestricted right to possess and use firearms.”
“ Another branch of the immunity category flows from an argument that a person has some status or has undertaken certain steps that renders the OPCA litigant immune to court action. I have given this category the name ‘magic hats’ to capture the manner in which OPCA gurus and litigants approach these arguments. They freely wear, remove, and switch ‘magic hats’ as need be. Many OPCA schemes are a combination, or succession, of ‘magic hats’.”
Of course the term ‘magic hat’ is not always metaphorical. One particularly misguided FMOTL litigant walked in to a Canadian court and claimed to be exempt from the law on the basis that he owned Canada. He then attempted to charge rent. As the judge relates, he was wearing a literal ‘magic hat’ – a Doctor Who style red fez!
“311] An interesting variation on the aboriginal immunity concept is advanced by Henry as “:Chief : Nanya-Shaabu: El: of the At-sik-hata Nation of Yamassee Moors.” Henry not only claims to be the head of an independent nation‑state and aboriginal community, but that his tribe owns Canada. He now demands rent. Henry has at times filed bizarre and elaborate documents with this Court that appear intended to assert and enforce that ownership. I agree with Justice Sanderman’s succinct evaluation of Henry’s claims as “total gibberish”: Henry Estate v. Alberta Health Services, 2011 ABQB 113 (CanLII), 2011 ABQB 113. Similarly, “Moorish” affiliation, in this case membership in the “Moorish Divine and National Movement of North America”, did not provide inherent jurisdiction or a capacity to trump Canadian legislation, administrative tribunals, or the courts: Shakes v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2011 CanLII 60494 (IRB), 2011 CanLII 60494 at para. 33 (I.R.B.).
 Henry also has worn a literal ‘magic hat’! In the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Henry v. Starwood Hotels (1 September 2010) Edmonton 1003‑01152 (Alberta Q.B.) before Justice Shelley, Henry appeared wearing what is best described as ceremonial garb, with a robe and red fez, that he indicated had special significance. Subsequently, Henry has appeared in Chambers wearing what appeared to be a lawyer’s robes. It seems that Moorish Law advocates place special weight on court dress, particularly since Henry appealed Justice Shelley’s findings in part on the basis that he had garbed himself in a manner appropriate for the occasion, but she had not: Henry v. Starwood Hotels, 2010 ABCA 367 (CanLII), 2010 ABCA 367 at para. 4, leave refused  S.C.C.A. No. 475.”
Of course, whilst these Canadian examples are funny, unfortunately we have some extremists of our own here in Britain. Let us examine, for a moment, the works of Veronica Chapman. This man, credibly dressed in a long blonde wig (is that another kind of ‘magic hat’?) shares his wrong views on YouTube as well as in his disgraceful book ‘Freedom is More Than Just a 7-Letter Word’.
So what does ‘Veronica’ advise? Well, we begin at the beginning in the ridiculously pretentious foreword,
“I am not a Solicitor. I am not a Lawyer. I am not an Accountant. I am not an Economist.”
This may seem like the pretentious rantings of a bar room bore. To others it looks an awful lot like a sort of accidental Hedley-Byrne disclaimer – a notice to exclude liability in negligence to those who have the misfortune to actually follow Mr Chapman’s advice.
I can’t even be bothered to analyse the rest of it so I will move straight on to the meat of the book and the absurd analysis of the word ‘Take’ that forms the basis of Chapter 1. Like an evil mirror of John Lennon, the argument of the chapter reduces to this,
“Imagine a world in which everyone (that’s everyone!) just took. […] No don’t laugh. Try to imagine it. It’s really important. It is what is going to set us free.”
He then goes on to talk about the ‘Grand Deceptions’, which he says are ‘Money’, ‘Legalese’ and ‘Religion’. Legalese? Legalese?? Legalese?!? ‘Veronica’ Chapman is leader of a movement defined by, as rational wiki puts it pseudo-legal wu and of public note primarily because of the disruption caused to the Court system by vast amounts of meritless arguments such as disputing a Court’s jurisdiction on the grounds that there is a flag in the Courtroom.
One is left with the suspicion he is either utterly blind to the irony or simply taking the piss. It should be recalled also that this book is not free. Mr Chapman charges for it, profiting, presumably in the form of that other thing he calls a ‘Grand Deception’ – i.e. money, although he says that he tries to keep royalties to the minimum necessary.
This idiot claims, publicly, that a Court summons (for example for an unpaid debt, arising, y’know from people ‘just taking’) is an invitation to contract. Optional. Mr Chapman tells us –
“You are perfectly entitled to write back: “No thanks. Your services are not required””
If we follow these rules (I omit the bizarre specifics he gives on how to give such a notice unilaterally declining Court jurisdiction) Mr Chapman tells us –
“It is likely to be a very short hearing. Probably about a minute or so, before you walk out with an enormous smile on your face.”
The sad reality is very different. Far from a short hearing, the length, cost and expense of litigation is multiplied – for example I encountered a vulnerable man being evicted, who (after following FMOTL advice) was also deprived of his legal capacity after the judge decided he was mentally ill.
I cannot stomach more of this. Suffice it to say that Mr Chapman explains in subsequent chapters, without apparent irony, the history of himself being made bankrupt for non-payment of taxes. Apparently had he known at the time of ‘Freedom’ principles like the idea that changing the spelling of his name or disputing the jurisdiction of the Court he could have avoided such unpleasantness.
Pages 102-168 or so of the book are largely concerned with template examples of exactly the sort of correspondence the judge in Meads v Meads complained of.
A number of responsible persons have tried to warn of the dangers of FMOTL, for example John Hemming MP is on record as saying, “I think people waste their time if they try the arguments used by the Freeman of the Land. It doesn’t have any effect on the system and is based upon an invalid understanding of the law.”
In short, the history of FMOTL is written in pain. The pain is felt by those who try to adhere to its misguided teachings, whilst its gurus often charge for their advice but do not follow it. For example, as Rational Wiki says, “Robert Menard in particular sells his DVD and book packs for C$250, but notably doesn’t use freeman legal tactics himself — he leaves that to his victims.”
Of course Courts try to deal with FMOTL as fairly and reasonably as possible, but fundamentally it is not fair to leave this to the Courts. The FMOTL movement needs to be stopped at its source. We need a law, (why yes ‘Veronica’, a statute!) needs to be possible to identify and ban textbooks that cause massive widespread disruption to the Court system and to fine their producers of the profits.
I suggest the following draft wording –
“It shall be an offence to produce and market as advice, no matter how disclaimed, written or other material purporting to give legal advice that is incorrect and that will inevitably, in its following, disrupt the operation of the Court system by significant numbers of people.
On conviction on indictment this offence shall be punishable by up to 10 years in prison and forfeiture of all profits from the authoring, production, sale or distribution of the material.”