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Common Law Court of the United States of America, characterized as "bogus"

Common Law Court of the United States of America, characterized as "bogus"

SHERIFFS: SERVICE OF PROCESS: Sheriff is not authorized to serve documents pertaining to proceedings in purported "courts" not established by law. Minn. Const. art. VI 387.03 (1994). 390a-21

November 5, 1996

Charles G. Rasmussen

Todd County Attorney

Todd County Courthouse

Long Prairie, MN 56347

Dear Mr. Rasmussen:

In your memorandum to Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III, you present substantially the following:


The Todd County Sheriff "served" on you documents that purport to notify you of proceedings in a "superior county court" of the "Minnesota state Republic" and/or a federal district court with "Common Law venue.[1] One of the documents bears a "Common Law Case" number and includes "country of Minnesota" in its caption. The documents purport to be a "Motion to Show Cause," an "Affidavit of Fact," and "Non-Statutory Abatement." You express concern that the resources of the Sheriff's Office are improperly used for unauthorized purposes when "serving" these and similar documents.

You ask substantially the following question:


Is a Sheriff authorized to "serve" documents that purport on their face to give notice of proceedings in "courts" that are not established by law?


We answer this question in the negative.

A sheriff is required to "execute all processes, writs, precepts, and orders issued or made by lawful authority and to the sheriff delivered . . . ." Minn. Stat. 387.03 (1994). I am not aware of any statutory or case law authority providing for service of motions, affidavits or "Non-Statutory Abatement" by the sheriff[2] Furthermore, the documents enclosed with your letter cannot be said to be issued by "lawful authority."

"Common law" courts lack lawful authority. The only state judicial authority in Minnesota is the authority vested in courts by Article VI of the Minnesota Constitution. Article VI vests the state's judicial power in a supreme court, a court of appeals if established by the legislature, a district court and such other courts that may be established by the legislature. Minn. Const. art. VI, 1. There is no provision for a "superior county court" with "common law venue" in the Minnesota Constitution, and the Minnesota Legislature has not created a "common law" court. Furthermore, the only recognized federal judicial authority is the judicial power created by Article III of the United States Constitution. U.S. Const. art. III, 1. Article III vests the judicial power of the United States in a supreme court and any inferior courts Congress may establish. There is no federal "common law court" created by the United States Constitution or by Congress.

Thus, a purported "Common Law Court of the United States of America" has been characterized as "bogus." See United States v. Morse, No. 93-3548, unpublished slip op. at 1 (8th Cir., Apr. 12, 1994) (rejecting argument that failure to surrender to serve sentence was justified by defendant's purported transfer of case to common law court). See also United States v. Greenstreet, 912 F. Supp. 224, 229 (N.D. Tex. 1996) ("mythical common law court" purporting to be "Common Law Court" for the Republic of Texas "does not exist"), Kaltenbach v. Marchive, 635 So.2d 701 (La. Ct. App. 1994) (purported judgment of "United States Common Law Court of the United States of America" not a judgment of any state, federal or foreign court); Scotka v. State, 856 S.W.2d 790, 791 (Tex. Ct. App. 1993) (characterizing "Common Law Court of the United States of America Default Judgment" as "attempt[] to usurp judicial authority").

A "common-law court" is not a "lawful authority" under section 387.03 and, therefore, the sheriff is not required to deliver documents purporting to be issued by it[3]

Furthermore, the sheriff's delivery of such documents violates the requirement of Minn. Const. art. X, 1 that taxes be "levied and collected for public purposes." This provision means that "public funds derived from taxation may be spent only for a public purpose . . . ." City of Pipestone v. Madsen, 287 Minn. 357, 364, 178 N.W.2d 594, 598 (1970). "Public purpose" is generally construed to mean "activity as will serve as a benefit to the community as a body and which, at the same time, is directly related to the functions of government." Id. (citation omitted). The so-called common law courts serve no duly authorized public purpose and are not directly related to a government function. Therefore, public funds may not be used to perform services on their behalf.

Very truly yours,


Attorney General


Assistant Attorney General

(612) 282-5717


[1]The punctuation appearing in the original documents is followed here. Copies of relevant portions of the documents are attached to this opinion.

[2]The sheriff is required to serve specific documents, not relevant here, that contain an "affirmation." See, e.g., Minn. Stat. 550.136, subd. 9 (service of earnings disclosure form containing affirmation) and 550.143, subd. 2 (1994) service of execution disclosure form containing affirmation). The phrase "non-statutory abatement" does not appear in any Minnesota statute or reported court decision.

[3]There may be circumstances when documents similar to those delivered to you fall within Minn. Stat. 609.51 (1994), which imposes a misdemeanor penalty on any person who "[s]ends or delivers to another any document which simulates a summons, complaint, or court process with intent thereby to induce payment of a claim . . . ." We express no opinion regarding the application of section 609.51 to the particular documents delivered to you.


Quote from Motion Filed in Kerr County

"The U.S. Courts are in violation of an order issued by the Common Law Court of the United States of America."


This marvelous opinion by Judge Sparks (Mazurek v. Itz, Cause No. A 94-CA-057-SS, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division) is not a published opinion, but I believe it accurately reflects the federal judiciary's frustration with the arguments and tactics used by "Posse" litigants:


BE IT REMEMBERED on this the 25th day of February 1994 the Court was presented with the file in the above-styled cause. Begrudgingly, the Court reviewed the file, noting that the Itzes have requested expressly that the Honorable James Nowlin preside over their case. However, the Court is confident that Judge Nowlin has bribed the District Clerk, and that is the reason for the assignment to the undersigned. The Court is, unfortunately, extremely familiar with Leo Itz and Elise Itz, their many lawsuits, and their inane and irrational allegations. Notwithstanding previous orders of both federal district judges in Austin with regard to the Itzes' continuous litigation and express warnings that sanctions would be ordered for further irresponsible litigation, Leo Itz and Elise Itz attempt to remove Cause No. 1720-1 in the Justice of the Peace Court, Precinct No. 1 of Gillespie County, Texas. This is a case of forcible entry and detainer filed by Clara M. Mazurek, also known as Clara Mazurek. Ms. Mazurek had the misfortune of purchasing the Itzes' property at an Internal Revenue Service Tax sale in June of 1993 and, apparently, is still (in January of 1994) attempting to have the Itzes removed from the property. The forcible entry and detainer complaint was filed on January 24, 1994; a jury was summoned, at the request of the Itzes, on February 2, 1994; after trial, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of Ms. Mazurek; and a judgment issued out of the Justice of the Peace Court on February 2, 1994, delivering possession of the property to Ms. Clara M. Mazurek. Meanwhile, back at the ranch (a phrase I always wanted to use in an opinion), in simultaneous filings and subsequent filings, the Itzes, through frivolous and irrational pleadings, attempt to place the forcible entry and detainer case first in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas; second, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit; and finally in the United States Court for the District of Columbia [The Itzes generally try to place their litigation in some court called the "Common Law Court of USA," which, allegedly is in Lafayette, Louisiana.] The Itzes further allege in their "Notice of Amendment of Defective Jurisdiction and Venue" filed in this cause that Clara Mazurek is, in fact, a political subdivision of the State of Texas and, by changing the style of the original lawsuit, attempt to add the State of Texas as a party plaintiff in the forcible entry and detainer lawsuit. The Itzes allege that they (presumably collectively) are a foreign state. They allege jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331 and removal authority under 28 U.S.C. 1443(1). The Itzes sign their pleadings "under threat, duress and coercion," and the remainder of the pleadings can be accurately described as "gobbledygook." Alas, it falls upon this Court to make another order in the continuing saga of the federal litigation initiated by the Itzes, and the Court is very tired of their attempts at manipulating the system of justice in the State of Texas and this Court. It is clear from the pleadings that this Court has no jurisdiction in this case and that the attempted removal is not made in good faith in addition to its absolute frivolity. THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED that this cause is REMANDED to the Justice of the Peace Court of Gillespie County, Texas, Precinct No. 1 and costs taxed to Leo Itz and Elise Itz for the filing fee, all service fes and $1,500 in costs and expenses, which includes attorney's fees.

SIGNED this the 25th day of February 1994.

Bam Sparks

United States District Judge



If you find yourself in federal court, do not hesitate to avail yourself of the federal courts' willingness to impose sanction in appropriate cases. As I have indicated, various federal courts have seen enough of these cases and litigants that their patience is limited (see judge's order at end of article). I have successfully prevented one troublesome litigant from being able to file any more cases at all in the United States Court for the Western District of Louisiana (Lafayette Division) by seeking and obtaining a sanction order which included a requirement that the litigants pay me and several other individuals/agencies a substantial amount in attorneys fees prior to attempting to file any other document in that court.


The Austin Court went on to observe in a footnote that the Republic of Texas adopted the English common law effective March 16, 1840, and the state government was organized on February 16, 1846, and the Common Law Court for the Republic of Texas could therefore have only existed between these two dates.


Common-law verdicts are meaningless

Non-Violent Group Takes Law Into Own Hands

Franklin's Our One Supreme Court claims to be the most powerful in the U.S. [*excerpt]

Mike Robertson, special agent in charge of intelligence and technical services for the State Bureau of Investigation in Raleigh, said Stern's group did not concern him because the common-law verdicts were meaningless.

"It's not that I'm not concerned about them, but it's not a court," Robertson said."A common-law court has no jurisdiction in a state. A decision that they produce is not binding on anyone."

Local officials say Stern's group has not caused any harm to those around them. A spokeswoman for the Macon County Sheriff's Department said that Stern's group had been orderly and civil in their gatherings and had broken no laws.

"We haven't had any problems with them so far," she said. "They have a right to free speech and to have a lawful assembly, and that is what they have done."


Office of the Attorney General State of Texas

May 2, 1996

The Honorable James W. Carr

Lavaca County Attorney

Box 576, Second Floor Courthouse

Hallettsville, Texas 77964

Opinion No. DM-389

Re: Whether a county clerk must file a judgment issued by a "common law court" (RQ-876)

Dear Mr. Carr:

You have requested our opinion as to whether a county clerk must file a judgment rendered by a "common law" court.

In recent years, the so-called "Republic of Texas" movement has harassed various local public officials by, among other things, conducting "trials" in self-styled "common law" courts of the movement's invention, and attempting to file the "judgments" resulting from those trials, and other such documents, including pleadings, in the lawful district and county courts of this state. (footnote 1) In the most recent reported instance, two individuals, at odds with the federal Farmer's Home Administration over a prior debt, filed false UCC-1 financing statements against three United States Department of Agriculture employees named as "debtors." United States v. Greenstreet, 912 F.Supp. 224, 227 (N.D. Tex. 1996). (footnote 2)

]Some clerks of courts have been misled by the attempted filings of these bogus papers, apparently because, at first glance, they appear to be similar in form to documents routinely filed in the courts of the Texas. Invariably, however, they indicate on their face the purported existence of the "common law courts of the Republic of Texas," or similar bodies which have no legal existence except in the minds of the partisans of this movement. As the court said in Kimmel: "We hold that the Common Law Court for the Republic of Texas, if it ever existed, has ceased to exist since February 16, 1846." Kimmel, 835 S.W.2d at 109.

The Texas Constitution states, in article V, section 1:

The judicial power of this State shall be vested in one Supreme Court, in one Court of Criminal Appeals, in Courts of Appeals, in District Courts, in County Courts, in Commissioners Courts, in Courts of Justices of the Peace, and in such other courts as may be provided by law.

The Legislature may establish such other courts as it may deem necessary and prescribe the jurisdiction and organization thereof, and may conform the jurisdiction of the district and other inferior courts thereto.

These specified courts, together with those statutory courts which the legislature has created, such as municipal courts, county courts at law, and the various specialized courts existing in the larger counties, constitute the only courts in which is vested the "judicial power of this State." Tex. Const. art. V, 1. No "common law court," whether of the so-called "Republic of Texas" or otherwise, is among those ordained by constitution or statute.

Section 191.001(c), Local Government Code, provides: "The county clerk shall record, exactly, without delay, and in the manner provided by this subtitle, the contents of each instrument that is filed for recording and that the clerk is authorized to record." A document specifying on its face that it is a judgment of a "common law" court is not one "that the clerk is authorized to record." Section 192.001, Local Government Code, states: "The county clerk shall record each deed, mortgage, or other instrument that is required or permitted by law to be recorded." An instrument originating from a "common law" court is not one "that is required or permitted by law to be recorded."

Finally, section 192.004, Local Government Code, provides: "The county clerk shall record separately from a deed or other conveyance each deed of trust, mortgage, or judgment that is required to be recorded to create a judgment lien and every other instrument that is intended to create a lien." A purported lien from a "common law" court is not a lawful instrument and therefore cannot create a lien. In Bernard v. Crowell, 38 S.W.2d 912 (Tex. Civ. App.- -San Antonio 1931, no writ), the court said that "the clerk of a trial court has no discretion in the matter of filing papers recognized by law as properly belonging in the record of causes." Any document that purports to be an order or judgment from a "common law" court is not one that is "recognized by law as properly belonging in the record of causes," because a "common law" court is not a legally constituted court under the constitution or statutes of this state.

County and district clerks should reject any document that indicates on its face that it is to be filed in, that it is an order or judgment from, or that it is a notice of a removal petition to, any purported state or local court not so named in constitution or statute. (footnote 3) A clerk should maintain a list of legitimate courts ready at hand to assist in this determination, and should of course consult his or her county or district attorney should any questions arise. Local officials may also wish to post notices advising of the legal consequences that attach to the filing of fraudulent liens. (footnote 4) Furthermore, county and district attorneys would be well advised to draw up a set of detailed guidelines to assist clerical employees in assuring that no legitimate filings are denied, and that both state and federal constitutional requirements are strictly observed. In some instances, it might be necessary for prosecutorial officials to monitor filings to ensure compliance with the law. (footnote 5)


A district or county clerk should not accept for filing any document that indicates on its face that it is to be filed in, that it is an order or judgment from, or that it is a notice of a removal petition to, any purported state or local court not named in the constitution or statutes of the state of Texas. County and district attorneys should assist clerical employees in making certain that no legitimate filings are denied, and that state and federal constitutional requirements are strictly observed.

Yours very truly,

DAN MORALES Attorney General of Texas


First Assistant Attorney General


Chair, Opinion Committee



[1] Seven examples of the kind of "documents" at issue are reproduced as appendices to the court's decision in Kimmel v. Burnet County Appraisal District, 835 S.W.2d 108, 109-115 (Tex. App.--Austin 1992, writ dism'd w.o.j.).

[2] The individuals claiming to be "citizens" of the "Republic of Texas" often attack the legitimacy of the duly constituted courts of this state by disputing the validity of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and they do so in the most virulently racist terms. As the court noted in Greenstreet:

Greenstreet argues that he is of "Freeman Character" and "of the White Preamble Citizenship and not one of the 14th Amendment legislated enfranchised De Facto colored races." He further claims that he is a "white Preamble natural sovereign Common Law De Jure Citizen of the Republic/State of Texas." As a result, he concludes that he is a sovereign, not subject to the jurisdiction of this Court.

Greenstreet, 912 F. Supp. at 228.

[3] We note that if district and county clerks have already accumulated a number of documents relating to the so-called "Republic of Texas," they may be able to dispose of them in accordance with those portions of the records retention statutes that relate to destruction of records. See Local Gov't Code chs. 202 (terms under which local governmental records may be destroyed), 203 (duties of records custodians for local governmental bodies); see also Gov't Code ch. 441, subch. J (revisions to local government records retention schedules). We caution, however, that local officials should exercise caution in this regard, since section 552.351, Government Code, creates a criminal offense for willful destruction of records, i.e. not in compliance with statutory requirement.

[4] In 1995, the legislature amended chapter 9 of the Texas Uniform Commercial Code to add section 9.412, which forbids the filing of a fraudulent lien, creates a cause of action in favor of the owner of property covered by the fraudulently filed financing statement, and makes such filing a criminal offense. See Bus. & Com. Code 9.412.

[5] Individuals claiming to be "citizens" of the "Republic of Texas" leave no doubt that they mean business, and they routinely issue public threats to "bring down" government. In a recent address before about 300 supporters at the State Capitol, the "provisional secretary of defense" of the "Republic" declared:

In about two weeks, we crank up to the next round. When we start going after . . . personal property, it's going to get real serious. If we have to bring the whole government to a halt in order to get legal review before the Legislature so they can determine their lawful status, we'll do it.

Jeffrey Needham, Republic Leaders Give Notice To Governor, IRS, SAN

ANTONIO EXPRESS- NEWS, Mar. 19, 1996, at 3B.


"She could not even show that the "Common Law Court of the United States of America" existed."

A Militia Watchdog Special Report


The verdict of the county court was predictable. Caught driving without a license or proof of insurance, Sherry Scotka received a $350 fine from the Kerr County, Texas, court for each offense. But Scotka, during the stultifying summer of 1993, was anything but predictable. Acting as her own lawyer, she appealed the county court's decision, requesting that the Texas Appeals Court transfer her case to the

"Common Law Court of the United States of America."

Her argument? That as a "sovereign citizen" she was outside the jurisdiction of Texas law or Texas courts.

The appeals court did not look upon her request with favor, noting that

she could not even show that the "Common Law Court of the United States of America" existed.

This was not the first time that the Court of Appeals had faced this sort of peculiar argument. From the Texas hill country had come a rash of such claims in the past several years, all from strangely similar cases: traffic violations, foreclosures, frivolous suits. Brought to court, the defendants, usually operating pro se--that is, defending themselves--would demand that the case in question be removed to the "Common Law Court for the Republic of Texas." Finally, in 1992, the Appeals Court noted officially that there was no such thing. "We hold," said the court, "that the Common Law Court for the Republic of Texas, if it ever existed, has ceased to exist since February 16, 1846" --in other words, when Texas state government was organized. It was then that the defendant changed the transfer reference in her pleading to the "Common Law Court of the United States of America," although interestingly the address on the legal documents remained the same (2).

What the Texas appeals court was just beginning to perceive were the beginnings of a movement created by recalcitrant self-proclaimed "sovereign citizens" determined to wrest control of their lives back from all forms of government or authority. Appearing first in isolated spots in Texas and Florida, the notion of "common law courts" soon spread to Kansas and other farm states, then quickly across the nation. The "common law court movement," as it has somewhat clumsily come to be called, now exists in some form in every state in the country. In some states, activity is minimal; in others common law courts are a serious nuisance; in some, they are a plague on the judicial system. Although featured on television shows like "20/20," common law courts did not really breach the public consciousness until the spring of 1996, when FBI agents surrounded a frigid eastern Montana farm to wait out two dozen recalcitrant tax protesters that locals dubbed "freemen." In reality, however, common law adherents had been active for years in different areas across the country. Frustrated county clerks knew of the strange filings made in their offices; puzzled policemen encountered confrontational motorists pulled over for homemade license plates; irritated lawyers discovered that bogus liens had been placed on their property by court opponents. But there was little public awareness or understanding of the movement. The media reported that Oklahoma City bombing suspect Terry Nichols had declared himself a "sovereign citizen," but treated it as a random, bizarre act by a right-wing extremist, not as an action by someone consciously part of an ideological movement.

Few people knew then that these activities were not just isolated phenomena. Fewer still, even today, understand that they are not just part of some movement, but that this movement has a much longer and more active history than most people ever suspected. The "common law court," so called, can be traced back nearly two decades as a form of right-wing social protest, with roots stretching back still farther. What common law court activists do and say today often seems strange and incomprehensible to the average person, but their deeds and words possess a coherent internal logic and are part of a very conscious overall ideology.

Understanding the origins of common law courts and why their members act the way they do will increase our understanding of them and assist in developing strategies to combat them effectively. That is the purpose of this overview.

Continued at:


Idiot Legal Arguments by Bernard J. Sussman, JD, MLS, CP

US v. Morse (8th Cir unpub 4/12/94) 21 F3d 433(t) (already convicted and sentenced to four months prison for filing false Form 1099s against IRS agents, refused to show up for delivery to prison because he was "appealing" to the "Common Law Court of the United States of America", held that since that court is "bogus" he was guilty of the additional offense of failing to surrender for which he gets an additional year and a day prison plus one year probation);