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A colleague recently shared An Open Letter to Sheriff Ward of Harney County Oregon - and to All County Sheriffs in America from Judge Anna

This letter makes a number of claims, among which:

  • Common Law courts have been mostly shut down and replaced with "Special Admiralty" courts, representing a kind of martial/maritime law, illegally. This is denoted by the heavy gold fringe on flags in courtrooms, apparently.

To what extent is this accurate? Is the way the court system is currently structured significantly different from how it was when the country was founded? If so, has it been to consolidate power into the Federal system - and if so, has it been done in a way that could reasonably be construed as contrary to the intent of the Founding Fathers as evidenced in the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, etc.?

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In Meads v. Meads, 2012 ABQB 571, Canadian Associate Chief Justice J.D. Rooke describes this as a "Restricted Court Jurisdiction" variation of an "Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument" - a form of vexatious litigation.

His analysis is entirely relevant to other jurisdictions; the key to note here is that the court's authority is supposedly invalidated by a minor detail of decor.

  1. Restricted Court Jurisdiction

[268] A common and older OPCA concept is that a Canadian court has a restricted jurisdiction. The majority of these schemes appear to have an American origin.

a. Admiralty or Military Courts

[269] A typical situation is that an OPCA litigant may claim a court is a military or admiralty court, and therefore has no jurisdiction over the litigant: Hajdu v. Ontario (Director, Family Reponsibility Office), 2012 ONSC 1835 (CanLII); Ramjohn v. Rudd, 2007 ABQB 84 (CanLII), 156 A.C.W.S. (3d) 38; R. v. J.B.C. Securities Ltd., 2003 NBCA 53 (CanLII), 261 N.B.R. (2d) 199; this proceeding. Once the true restricted nature of the court is ‘unmasked’, the litigant will declare themselves immune to court action. That, of course, has been uniformly unsuccessful.

[270] Mr. Meads at one point pursued this approach in his oral arguments. He demanded to know the meaning and significance of the Royal Coat of Arms of Canada attached to the back of the courtroom, behind the bench. Once I translated the Latin motto “A Mari usque ad Mare”, “from sea to sea”, Mr. Meads declared it meant the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench was an admiralty court which had no jurisdiction over himself. Mr. Meads was in one sense correct; this court can potentially address admiralty law matters, subject to legislation that assigns that jurisdiction to the Federal Court (Zavarovalna Skupnost, (Insurance Community Triglav Ltd.) v. Terrasses Jewellers Inc., 1983 CanLII 138 (SCC), [1983] 1 S.C.R. 283, 54 N.R. 321; Federal Courts Act, R.S.C. 1985, c F‑7, s. 22). Admittedly landlocked as Alberta is, litigation of that kind is not exactly a common occurrence. Mr. Meads is, however, manifestly mistaken if he thinks that is the sole jurisdiction of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

[271] Another Admiralty Law based argument illustrates how the word “includes” seems to baffle OPCA litigants. I have personally received a ‘foisted unilateral agreement’ (see below) that explains that “Canada” is restricted to the oceans that surround the landmass and its internal waters. The writer explains the basis of this argument is the Interpretation Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. I‑21, s. 35(1), which reads in part:

  1. (1) In every enactment,

...

“Canada”, for greater certainty, includes the internal waters of Canada and the territorial sea of Canada ... [Emphasis added.]

The author continued to declare that all Canadian courts:

... are nothing but pirates (criminals) operating on the high seas of commerce, looking for some prize, and as such, they are de facto courts ... [Emphasis in original.]

This may have been the argument advanced in R. v. Martin, 2012 NSPC 73 (CanLII) at para. 11.

[272] OPCA litigants who advance these schemes will often focus on certain aspects of court formalities. Like Mr. Meads, they may scrutinize the court for some hidden indication of its true nature. A strange but common belief is that a flag with yellow or gold thread ‘fringes’ “denotes a military jurisdiction, not common law”. In R. v. J.B.C. Securities Ltd., 2003 NBCA 53 (CanLII) at para. 2, 261 N.B.R. (2d) 199, Chief Justice Drapeau of the New Brunswick Court of Appeal rejected a motion by Lindsay “... removing the gold‑fringed Canadian flag that has adorned the Court of Appeal’s hearing room for years ...”. This motion, and the argument that “[t]here is no lawful reason for a Canadian flag to be present other than the regular statutory authorized flag” was frivolous and vexatious: para. 9.

See also: "What has Meads v Meads wrought?", April 8, 2013, Jonnette Watson Hamilton and Alice Woolley.

It's also worth noting that Anna von Reitz, the author, proclaims herself to be a judge but is not recognised as such by the mainstream legal system (source).

The fallacy that the US court system secretly has no power because it is (again secretly) a maritime or military court is also addressed in the Evans Legal Tax Protestor FAQ:

The tax laws cannot be enforced against citizens in federal courts, because federal courts are “admiralty” or “maritime” courts or (alternative) tax enforcement is governed by admiralty law and can be defeated by properly invoking admiralty procedures.

This nonsense seems to arise out of a misunderstanding of the meaning of “exclusive,” so statements that federal court jurisdiction over maritime litigation is “exclusive” is read as meaning that federal courts can hear only maritime litigation, while what was meant was that maritime litigation can only be heard by federal courts and cannot be heard by state courts. (This claim therefore seems related to the claim that Congressional power is limited to the District of Columbia and other “federal areas,” which arises out of the mistaken belief that the power of Congress to exercise ““exclusive Legislation” means that Congress can legislate only for the District of Columbia, while what was clearly intended was that the power of legislation should be exclusive to Congress and denied to the states.)

As ridiculous as this claim about admiralty law might look, at least one court has taken the time to refute it:

“The Saunders argue that the district court lacked jurisdiction to enforce the summonses. In support of their position, they cite The Glide, 167 U.S. 606, 623-24, 17 S.Ct. 930, 936, 42 L.Ed. 296 (1897), which holds that ‘[t]he maritime and admiralty jurisdiction conferred by the constitution and laws of the United States upon the district courts of the United States is exclusive.’ The Saunders apparently interpret this language as limiting the jurisdiction of federal district courts to admiralty and maritime actions. The Saunders also seem to believe that, by issuing a notice of dishonor under the Uniform Commercial Code, they prevent the IRS from characterizing this case as a contract in admiralty or a maritime action, leaving the district court no basis for jurisdiction.

“The Saunders reading of The Glide founders. In describing the district courts’ maritime and admiralty jurisdiction as ‘exclusive’ the Supreme Court excluded state courts from adjudicating either category of lawsuit. The Court did not, by employing the phrase ‘exclusive,’ delimit the bases of federal jurisdiction. To the contrary, Congress has expressly directed federal district courts to hear tax enforcement matters. See 26 U.S.C. §§ 7402(b), 7604(a); 28 U.S.C. § 1340. We have repeatedly confirmed the authority--indeed, duty--of the district courts to adjudicate tax summons cases such as the one being prosecuted here. See, e.g., United States v. Author Servs., Inc., 804 F.2d 1520, 1525 (9th Cir.1986), amended, 811 F.2d 1264 (9th Cir.1987).”

United States v. Saunders, 951 F.2d 1065 (9th Cir. 1991).

Still, there are many tax protester pleadings referring to admiralty or maritime law, all of which are usually ignored by the courts as simply gibberish.

The claim that “Federal courts may not enforce the internal revenue laws because their jurisdiction is limited to admiralty or maritime cases or issues” has been identified by the IRS as a “frivolous position” that can result in a penalty of $5,000 when asserted in a tax return or included in certain collection-related submissions. Notice 2007-30, 2007-14 I.R.B. 883.

...

If the flag of the United States that is in the courtroom has a gold fringe, then the court is operating under martial law.

There is actually some interesting history behind this nonsense.

There is a federal statute that defines the American flag as thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white, with a “union” of a blue field with one white star for each state. 4 U.S.C. §§ 1 and 2. The statutory definition says nothing about any kind of fringe of the kind often used on ceremonial flags displayed indoors, and at some point someone in the military wondered whether a flag with a fringe was “legal.” In 1925, the Attorney General issued an opinion that a fringe “does not appear to be regarded as an integral part of the Flag, and its presence cannot be said to constitute an unauthorized addition to the design prescribed by statute,” concluding that “The presence, therefore, of a fringe on military colors and standards does not violate any existing Act of Congress. Its use or disuse is a matter of practical policy, to be determined, in the absence of statute, by the Commander in Chief....” 34 Op. Atty. Gen. 483 (May 15, 1925).

Perhaps you can see where this is going? Because the Attorney General expressed the opinion that the President as Commander-in-Chief can put a fringe on military flags, tax protesters have leapt to the conclusion that all flags with fringes are military flags. This idea has been flatly rejected in numerous court decisions. See, e.g., McCann v. Greenway, 952 F. Supp. 647 (W.D. Mo. 1997); United States v. Greenstreet, 912 F.Supp. 224, 229 (N.D.Tex.1996) (“To think that a fringed flag adorning the courtroom somehow limits this Court’s jurisdiction is frivolous.”); Vella v. McCammon, 671 F.Supp. 1128, 1129 (S.D.Tex.1987) (rejecting argument that a federal court lacks jurisdiction to impose penalties for civil and criminal contempt because its flag is fringed); Commonwealth v. Appel, 438 Pa.Super. 214, 652 A.2d 341, 343 (1994) (rejecting argument that a fringed flag in a state courtroom conferred on the court admiralty or maritime jurisdiction).

In Leverenz v. Torluemlu, 1996 WL 272538, at *1 & n. 3 (N.D.Ill. May 20, 1996), the court noted that the complaint named as defendants a judge, a state attorney general, a doctor, several police officers from different communities, and 600 unnamed John and Jane Does and that “[s]ome idea of what is to come is provided by this legend that Leverenz attaches to his ‘Complaint’ heading: “This case is under the jurisdiction of the American flag of peace of the United States of America. No flags of war will serve this case jurisdiction.” (In National Auto. Dealers & Assocs. Retirement Trust v. Arbeitman, 89 F.3d 496, 502 (8th Cir.1996), a later motion in the Leverenz case was described as “bizarre.”)

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    Given that apparently "Judge" Anna von Reitz does not recognize the mainstream legal system, I'm guessing that's mutual... – Shadur Jan 19 '16 at 20:21
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    Its not clear to me why your discussing a Canadian judge's ruling when the question is about American courts. – Andy Oct 31 '18 at 23:45

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