From the Bench: Is Sovereign Citizenship a Defense? | Opinion

Posted at 12:52 PM, October 21, 2022 and last updated 9:53 AM, October 26, 2022

By: Judge Ashley Willcott

Waukesha, Wisconsin (Court TV) – Darrell E. Brooks is on trial for 76 charges, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide for allegedly driving an SUV through the 2021 Waukesha Christmas Parade, striking dozens of spectators and participants. In a surprising turn of events the week before trial was scheduled to begin, Brooks exercised his United States Constitution Sixth Amendment right to represent himself.

The Court determined Brooks was competent to do so, and off to the races with a pro se defendant.

Throughout the trial, Brooks has been argumentative, disruptive, and generally disrespectful of the judge and court proceedings. And what happens when a witness, party or the court, refers to the defendant by name? Brooks consistently objects for the record that he does not consent to being called “that name” (Darrell Brooks). Judge Jennifer R. Dorow has responded more than once that it goes towards his sovereign beliefs, which are not relevant to this trial.

Brooks has also consistently argued his “sovereign citizen” request and that the court prove the “subject matter of jurisdiction.” Judge Dorow has denied this objection multiple times during the trial.

“I have not been provided proof of subject matter jurisdiction,” Brooks said.

The court ruled that it is not required to show such proof. Judge Dorow explained that Brooks’ “sovereign citizen” arguments have been debunked throughout the ages in the United States of America’s state and federal courts.

Sovereign citizens are categorized by the FBI as “extremists” who believe they are not subject to the jurisdiction of the federal government and laws. Sovereign citizens oppose American governmental structure, including the courts and law enforcement. They believe sovereign citizens “retain an individual common law identity, exempting thefrom the authority of those fraudulent government institutions”.

Tactics used by sovereign citizens include speaking in a quasi-legal language, not capitalizing names, writing in red and using certain catch phrases. They believe these tactics allow them to avoid any liability in our judicial system, according to a publication by the UNC School of Government. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why defendant Darrell Brooks objects to the use of his name during his trial.

Bottom line?

While sovereign citizens reject the current federal, state and local governments and consider themselves outside their authority, the beliefs hold no legal weight and are not a recognized defense to an alleged criminal act.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? HOW IS DARRELL BROOKS FARING IN HIS DEFENSE?

Let us know on social media @courttv #fromthebench

 

Watch Judge Ashley Willcott, weekdays from 3 to 5 p.m. ET. on Court TV Live, your front row seat to justice.

MORE NEWS