Note: This essay was first published as Birdman's Weekly Letter #402. I did not permanently post it at the time, but because I have observed legal eagleist material constantly crossing my electronic desk, I thought this permanent post would be apt. It does not really belong in the Libertarian section, but since there is no other section which is more appropriate, I have posted it there.
I use the phrase 'legal eagleism' to describe the often arcane and generally unaccepted legal theories which hold that what the law says about various particular topics is widely different from what it is generally regarded to say, and that if people just insisted that the law be followed, nirvana would arrive. This is not to say that the legal eaglists are wrong in their interpretation; it is rather to say that whether they are right or wrong doesn't much matter, because their theories just don't fly in court, or rarely do.
Perhaps the most interesting example of legal eagleism is the case of the Montana Freeman, who were apparently doing the same sorts of things that banks and government agencies were doing -- placing liens on the properties of persons who didn't do as they were "s'posed" to do. As one might expect, of course, the government and the banks don't like their own rackets to be revealed, and they certainly don't like their own weapons being used against them; so it was only a matter of time before the Montana Freemen were sent to the calaboose.
While legal eagleism is usually intended as a weapon against the Dad Gummit, it is also a source of tea-leaf readings by which the legal eagles prove that the government is concocting evil. This, needless to say, is quite useless, as it is clear to anyone with eyes to see and half a brain that the government is a source of unlimited evil, and only respects the law when officials find it useful to do so.
One reasonable fear that legal eagles often express is that the Dad Gummit will use 'sleeper laws' to bring about full-blown totalitarianism when the political climate seems favorable to do so. A notable example is a case described by former US Rep James Traficant, currently in jail on trumped-up charges evidently intended to silence his defense of Constitutional government. Here is a brief excerpt from an address he made to the House of Representatives:
"Mr. Speaker, we are here now in chapter 11.. Members of Congress are official trustees presiding over the greatest reorganization of any Bankrupt entity in world history, the U.S. Government. We are setting forth hopefully, a blueprint for our future. There are some who say it is a coroner's report that will lead to our demise."
The above is quoted from an article entitled "You Think You Own Your Own Home, Car, Etc? - Think Again" posted on rense.com and dated 12-1-1. By way of explaining these remarks, the article continues:
It is an established fact that the United States Federal Government has been dissolved by the Emergency Banking Act, March 9, 1933, 48 stat. 1, Public Law 89-719; declared by President Roosevelt, being bankrupt and insolvent. H.J.R. 192, 73rd Congress m session June 5, 1933 - Joint Resolution To Suspend The Gold Standard and Abrogate The Gold Clause dissolved the Sovereign Authority of the United States and the official capacities of all United States Governmental Offices, Officers, and Departments and is further evidence that the United States Federal Government exists today in name only. The receivers of the United States Bankruptcy are the International Bankers, via the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. All United States Offices, Officials, and Departments are now operating within a de facto status in name only under Emergency War Powers. With the Constitutional Republican form of Government now dissolved, the receivers of the Bankruptcy have adopted a new form of government for the United States. This new form of government is known as a Democracy, being an established Socialist/Communist order under a new governor for America. This act was instituted and established by transferring and/or placing the Office of the Secretary of Treasury to that of the Governor of the International Monetary Fund. Public Law 94-564, page 8, Section H.R. 13955 reads in part: "The U.S. Secretary of Treasury receives no compensation for representing the United States?"
Evidently this is 'rully far-out stuff, Dahling', but in spite of the enormity of what is being said, it is obviously inoperative in the real world -- the distinctive hallmark of legal eagleism. Whether it will be so in the future is anyone's guess.
A good deal of legal eagleist efforts have gone into thwarting the traffic cops. Their most frequent contention is that private individuals do not need a driver's license to use the public roads, altho they apparently grant that drivers of commercial vehicles do so. Legal eagles seem to have carried the day on this particular score, at least in some instances; but the fact remains that most people still get licenses and still show them to cops who stop them, so if the legal eagles are right, the decisions favorable to their cause are not operative, or not very. In any event, anyone who drives without a license is asking for hassle, and most people are simply unwilling to put up with that sort of thing.
One of the most bizarre contentions of the legal eagle crowd is that there are two types of courts in operation -- ordinary law and 'admirality law', the latter having been instituted for some nefarious purpose of which I am not fully clear. The distinction between a regular and admirality court is supposed to be that the admirality court sports a flag with a yellow fringe, and this is a red flag for all legal eaglists, who see some nefarious purpose in it.
Another bizarre concept promoted by legal eaglists is 'common law', which is reflected from time to time in reports that this or that legal eaglist has set up a 'common law court'. As I understand it (and I do so imperfectly at best), common law is simply what is today called 'case law', ie, the accumulation of judges' decisions explicating statutory law, except that common law grows out of English rather than American statutory law. In any event, 'common law' seems to go against the earlier-mentioned intent of legal eagles to stop the perversion of statutory law, since common law is apparently unwritten, and hence gives legitimacy to just about anything a legal eaglet wishes.
Perhaps the greatest of all legal eaglets was Alfred Adask, who for many years published a magazine called Anti-Shyster, now defunct, but available on the Net. Adask, a former Texas roofer, was a bright fellow who got fed up with the legal system and wanted to do something about it. I don't know whether Anti-Shyster ever had any legal effect, but it should have made everyone who read it conclude that there is no justice in the justice system, and that the only way to deal with this fact is to stay as far away from it as possible.
And it is precisely here, I think, that a real legal revolution will materialize if it ever comes at all -- a movement of the adjucation of claims from the government sphere to that of private organizations which provide binding arbitration. The American Arbitration Association has been a pioneer in this area, but the field is so large that I am sure it is not the only one. The problem here is that only civil disputes can be handled in this way -- criminal complaints are still the government's province. However, as I have outlined in my article 'Free-Market Justice' in my book Bryant's Law (and as other libertarians have written on elsewhere), it is also possible to privatize the criminal justice system to the advantage of everyone save the power-seeking bureaucrats who prefer the current flawed system because it gives them a chance to screw people.
While I don't have much faith that legal eagleism will give rise to anything good or useful (tho I certainly hope it will), there are two important cases which may be thought to fall under the legal eagle rubric that are both important and have promise of real and significant change. Both, as it happens, are concerned with the income tax -- one with the obligation of employers to withhold taxes, and the other with the obligation of individuals to pay the tax. While legal eagles have long made the unusual claim that most people are not subject to the income tax because they do not live in the District of Columbia, or because the Constitutional amendment allowing the tax was not ratified properly, or because the Constitution forbids any kind of direct tax, the cases we have mentioned are apparently not involved with any of these contentions. Instead they involve the assertion that the IRS code does not actually specify what is taxable income. While I have not followed the legal arguments closely, it is apparent from what has transpired that the government is worried about these cases. What may eventually happen is that the tax law will be junked in favor of some kind of flat tax without any loopholes; but in any event these are certainly cases that bear watching closely. An organization called We The People has been closely involved with both of them, and interested parties may wish to check its website periodically.
But then again, with the so-called Patriot Act and freedom-haters like President Bush and and his Attorney General Ashcroft, the people prosecuting these cases may simply be rounded up and sent to Guantanamo as 'terrorists'. After their assets are confiscated, of course.
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