United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Marilyn Yvette Cook, objects [D. 1');">121');">1] to the Report and
Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Debra Poplin [D. 1');">11');">11');">1]. The
Report and Recommendation recommends denying a slew of
pretrial motions filed by Ms. Cook [see D. 65, 67,
69-1');">1, 77-1');">1, 88-1');">1, 89-1');">1, 91');">1-1');">1, and 93-1');">1]. For the reasons
given, Judge Poplin's Report and Recommendation is
accepted in whole, and Ms. Cook's pretrial motions are
denied. In addition, Ms. Cook's appeal [D. 63] of Judge
Poplin's finding that she is competent to stand trial is
denied [D. 62].
Cook[1');">1" name="FN1');">1" id="FN1');">1">1');">1]
was indicted on February 21');">1, 201');">18 on one count charging her
with presenting a fictitious false and fictitious financial
instrument-a “Bill of Exchange” in the amount of
$1');">1 million-in violation of 1');">18 U.S.C. § 51');">14(a)(2) [D. 1');">1].
A Superseding Indictment was later filed on April 2, 201');">19,
adding a second charge for presenting a false tax refund in
violation of 1');">18 U.S.C. § 287 [D. 81');">1]. On January 31');">1,
201');">19, Judge Poplin held a competency hearing for Ms. Cook,
and found her competent to stand trial [D. 62]. Since that
date, Ms. Cook has represented herself with the Court's
permission, with Attorney Robert R. Kurtz serving as elbow
counsel [D. 64].
Judge Poplin observed, Ms. Cook makes a hodgepodge of
arguments that all bear the hallmark of the “sovereign
citizen” movement. Sovereign citizens (or
“sovereigns”) are a “loosely knit
network” of individuals who express-and act on-a shared
anti-government sentiment. See Joshua P. Weir,
Sovereign Citizens: A Reasoned Response to the
Madness, 1');">19 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 830, 834 (201');">15).
Members of the contemporary movement believe that with the
passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, along with various
developments in commercial law (including the adoption of the
Uniform Commercial Code (“UCC”), abandonment of
the gold standard, and creation of the Federal Reserve Bank),
the modern-day legal system has tricked people into giving up
their “sovereign” citizenship in order to receive
government benefits. See Id. at 837; Francis X.
Sullivan, The “Usurping Octopus of
Jurisdictional/Authority”: The Legal Theories of the
Sovereign Citizen Movement, 1');">1999 Wis. L. Rev. 785,
believe there are two forms of citizenship-inferior federal
(or Fourteenth Amendment) citizenship, and superior
state (also known as sovereign, or “de
jure”) citizenship. They further believe the original
Constitution recognized three types of jurisdiction-common
law (which requires an injury to person or property), equity
(which requires a contract), and admiralty (originally
limited to the high seas). Sovereigns argue that federal
district courts are admiralty courts, and through the UCC,
federal courts have superseded common law by enforcing
federal government contracts that bind people into federal
citizenship. Sullivan, supra at 805-06. By filing
abstruse legal documents to free themselves from the yoke of
federal citizenship, sovereigns argue they are exempt from
the jurisdiction of any legitimate court, state or federal.
Weir, supra at 838.
and perhaps paradoxically, sovereigns believe they can use
the court systems to access funds tied to their birth
certificate and Social Security numbers, through a tactic
known as “redemption.” J.M. Berger, Geo. Wash.
Program on Extremism, Without Prejudice: What Sovereign
Citizens Believe 6 (June 201');">16). Government credentials
such as birth certificates embody a fictional
“strawman, ” each with its own corresponding bank
or trust account that is distinct from the
“flesh-and-blood” person. Weir, supra at
840. The strawman operates in the commercial world, so only
the strawman is subject to the jurisdiction of a court.
Id. But since the gold standard was abolished, the
strawman accounts have been used to secure government debt;
by filing the right documents, the flesh-and-blood person can
“redeem” money from the strawman account.
citizen pleadings are “dense, complex, and virtually
unreadable, ” and a branch of sovereign citizen case
law has grown to address the voluminous and often frivolous
workload. Sullivan, supra at 796 (“Faced with
mountains of paperwork, courts must choose between spending
hours deciphering Sovereign Citizen arguments or dismissing
them out of hand”); see U.S. v. Coleman, 871');">1
F.3d 470, 476 (6th Cir. 201');">17) (“Defendant's legal
arguments directly correspond to meritless rhetoric
frequently espoused by tax protesters, sovereign citizens,
and self-proclaimed Moorish-Americans”); U.S. v.
Neal, 776 F.3d 645, 657 (9th Cir. 201');">15) (Sovereign
citizen who filed a variety of documents disputing
jurisdiction and other “nonsensical” issues did
not exhibit incompetence to stand trial); U.S. v.
Benabe, 654 F.3d 753, 767 (7th Cir. 201');">11');">1) (A sovereign
citizen's arguments that they are beyond the jurisdiction
of the courts should be “rejected summarily, however
they are presented.”).
Ms. Cook's Objections
Cook's pleadings raise textbook sovereign citizen claims.
In her competency hearing, Ms. Cook refused to consent to
Judge Poplin presiding over the proceedings, and continued
that argument into her appeal, saying she was “not
contracting with the commercial banking system” [D.
63]. She goes on to assert her standing in the
“Republic” under the “laws of
1');">13” and invokes the laws of the Republic and
biblical law against the commercial banking system
[Id., pp. 2-3].
Cook raises four specific objections to Judge Poplin's
Report and Recommendation. The first objection begins with
the caption “The ignorance of the Judge is the
Misfortune of the Innocent, ” and Ms. Cook develops an
elaborate multi-step argument purportedly showing the entire
conduct of the criminal prosecution in this case is
fraudulent. [D. 1');">121');">1-1');">1, p. 1');">1]. The Court has attempted to
reconcile the logic of this argument to the extent possible.
Cook begins by claiming this Court is not an Article III
court, and is instead a private corporation, whose authority
to conduct Article III judicial proceedings has been
delegated under U.S. Const. art. 1');">1, § 8, cl. 9. Because
the Court is a corporation, she argues, it has no
jurisdiction over anyone who does not contract with it.
Cf. 28 U.S.C. § 3002(1');">15)(A) (defining
“United States” as a “Federal
corporation” for purpose of federal debt collection).
Ms. Cook claims that “unsuspecting” people have
been held subject to this corporate jurisdiction-despite
never having contracted with it-through the illegal adoption
of the UCC.
Ms. Cook alleges that her birth certificate and Social
Security card are each tradable securities on which she can
pay off her debt. The profits from these financial
instruments are being held in a “Certa Que”
trust, managed by the Federal Reserve Bank. But all relevant
parties to this prosecution (including the judges, clerks,
and prosecutors) consider those assets to be their property.
clarifying that she is a “natural citizen of the State
of Tennessee” and alleging that the criminal claims
brought against her are really claims in equity, she lays out
the fraudulent process the Court has used to deprive her of
access to funds, ending with the allegation that both the
court and the Government have sworn allegiance to the
International Monetary Fund. Ms. Cook rehashes these arguments
in her fourth objection, arguing the Court is a
“tribunal operated as a ...