One of the more unusual theories associated with the sovereign citizen movements is the belief that lawyers who are members of bar associations in the United States are, in fact, agents of the British Crown and do not have legitimate status in American courts. This is based in a false but widely repeated claim that the word “bar” in this context is an acronym for “British Accreditation Register”. The theory continues that this “British Accreditation Register” formed the International Bar Association, the lawyers of which swear their allegiance to England and it’s Crown by “swearing an oath to the Bar”. The International Bar Association was founded in 1947 1 not in the 1600’s, which makes the claim seem quite absurd.
Most OPCA adherents in Australia don’t even realise the origin of their belief, which actually stems from a primary doctrine of the U.S. Sovereign Citizen movement. Dislike of lawyers is hardly unique, but these theories carry it to new extremes.
Sovereign Citizens do not allow lawyers to practice in their “common-law courts” because they say lawyers are not citizens. They claim members of the American Bar Association, are a “private club from England” and these foreigners spearhead a longstanding conspiracy to betray the U.S. to England. They have written extensively about this concept, including David M. Dodge, The Missing 13th Amendment; and Barefoot Bob, The Original Thirteenth Amendment: Titles of Nobility and Honour, An Essay.
Sovereign Citizens view the REAL Thirteenth Amendment as unconstitutional, because they were originally a white supremacist group that opposed the abolition of black slavery the amendment carried. Sovereign Citizen thought is ultimately, based in the denial they lost their black slaves (the Thirteenth Amendment) who are now all equal citizens (the Fourteenth Amendment) that can *gasp* even legally marry their “pure white” daughters (Loving v. Virginia 1967). This is often expressed in the phrase “They didn’t free the black slaves, they enslaved everyone.” The ideology is covertly based in racism, with a thin, deceptive veneer of patriotism.
This is the reason why the 1969 Posse Comitatus, the forerunner to the Sovereign Citizens, only recognised the first twelve amendments. They were the first to differentiate between two types of “citizen”. One, a pure white “organic citizen” with God-given constitutional rights, the other, a “U.S. citizen” with mere privileges granted to negro slaves by these unrecognised amendments . They taught that the negros, Jews, British and other foreigners, (and those other whites “contracted” through their U.S. birth certificate) were not true “American Nationals” but unfortunate denizens of a “corporation” based in Washington DC. (Sound familiar?)
According to the Sovereign Citizens, the “original” Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in 1819, and provided that:
“If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive, or retain any title of nobility or honour, or shall without the consent of Congress, accept and retain any present, pension, office, or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince, or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States, and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them.”
This amendment was actually proposed in 1810, and by 1812, it was one vote short of ratification. This is where conspiracy theory overtakes historical fact. According to the theory, British interests feared passage of the amendment, so they provoked the War of 1812, during which they destroyed the Library of Congress in an attempt to obliterate it. In 1819, when Virginia supposedly ratified it, British bankers attempted to destroy the state’s economy. Although this Thirteenth Amendment thus became law, a conspiracy of lawyers managed to keep it from becoming publicly known until the U.S. Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln permanently suppressed it as part of an agreement to keep Britain from entering the U.S. Civil War on the side of the Confederacy.
Sovereign Citizens view this “proposed” Thirteenth Amendment as vital because it excludes persons who hold titles of nobility from American citizenship. Upon appointment to the bar, lawyers once received a title of nobility – “esquire” – that they contend strips them of their citizenship.
As a judicial example, in Anderson v. United States, (No. 97 C 2805, 1998 U.S. Dist. Lexis 7107, at paras 7-8 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 24, 1998). Mr. Anderson claimed that no lawyer or member of Congress is a citizen of the United States because the penalty for violation of the “Original” Thirteenth Amendment (“claiming a title of nobility”) is loss of citizenship. Since no member of Congress is a citizen, Congress is unable to enact any laws that have constitutional effect. He argued that his civil rights were violated, along with the “Original” Thirteenth Amendment, accusing the court of colluding with the Bar Association and Congress to violate citizens’ rights, and that every licensed attorney is guilty of collusion, deceptive trade practices, fraud, and extortion. He concluded with “Alfred the Great hung forty-five judges for placing their “opinions” above the law!”
While they argue that it is law, they miss a vital point. Even if this amendment was carried, it would not have the desired effect they imply. Historically, the British peerage system referred to knights as “Squires” and to those who bore the knight’s shields as “Esquires.” As lances, shields, and physical violence gave way to the more civilized means of theft, the pen grew mightier (and more profitable) than the sword, and the clever wielders of those pens (bankers and lawyers) also came to hold titles. The most common title was “Esquire.”
In fact, “esquire“ was considered a title of dignity (ranking above a gentleman but below a knight) or a title of office, NOT a title of nobility. See Black’s Law Dictionary 546 (6th ed. 1990). 2
Nevertheless, this much-cited “alternate” Thirteenth Amendment notion, that contends to be about ‘lawyers” was never even ratified, and therefore has no place, nor has ever had a place, in U.S. law. It therefore follows, that the adoption of this concept in OPCA groups in other nations is baseless, and frivolous when raised in a court. Adherents in Australia attempt to adapt the U.S. theory to suit our own legal environment, while completely ignoring the fact that these critical elements that led to its creation in the U.S. in the first place, do not even exist here.
The concept has also likewise been adopted by OPCA groups in other Commonwealth nations, mainly associating it to the “Crown Corporation of London” part of a fictional representation of three ruling cities of a global empire, London, the Vatican, and Washington DC, found in a conspiratorial film called “The Empire of the City”.
As is common with conspiracy theories, it matters not that a notion is based in mere conjecture, if it fits the narrative, you can bet it will be used as a foundation for a new faith-based, paranoid hypothetical.
The New South Wales Bar Association is a separate entity to the Victorian Bar Association or that of other Australian states, simply because it operates under a separate constitution, and legal system, to Victoria and the other states. Likewise, the Bar Association in the U.K. Canada, New Zealand, the U.S. etc, each also being foreign nation to Australia, also operate under completely different constitutional and legal structures.
The only notion that unites these nations legal systems, and Bar Associations, is that the individual systems are each based in a common law structure. Because of this, there are some similarities, and foreign judgments are even sometimes relied upon, not in a binding, non-orbiter, authoritative sense, but a persuasive sense, if the courts in another common law system came to the same conclusions in a particular ratio decidendi or point of law. Nevertheless, the qualifications of a lawyer in Australia relate to Australia only, it doesn’t qualify them in Canadian law for example, or visa-versa with Canadian lawyers. Ultimately, these are very different legal systems.
NONE of these nations, or even the individual states, require lawyers to make an “oath to the Bar”, but rather, an oath or affirmation according to law, as their own particular legal system stipulates.
There is no foreign allegiance either, nor obligation to follow the directives of any other foreign nation, or any organisation of any other foreign nation, in their courts. (Refer to the Balfour Agreement 1926, Statute of Westminster 1942, and the Australia Act 1986)
Due to the evolution of responsible government, even Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, as Queen of Australia, holds a completely different title to that of the other Commonwealth nations, like the Queen of England, Queen of Canada, Queen of New Zealand etc. Allegiance to the Queen of England is actually contrary to section 44 of the Commonwealth Constitution, as found in the High Court in Sue v Hill  HCA 30.
So in conclusion, the Sovereign Citizen notion of an “oath to the BAR” fails, both in its historical U.S. context, and also in it current Australian context. It is merely a myth.
This is the Oath of Office 3 taken by lawyers of the Supreme Court of Queensland:
“I do sincerely promise and swear, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance, to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, as lawful sovereign of Australia, and her other realms and territories, and to her heirs and successors, according to law. I do sincerely promise and swear that I will truly and honestly conduct myself, in the practice of a lawyer of this court, according to law to the best of my knowledge and ability. So help me God.”
This is the much feared, conspiratorial, “Oath to the Bar” that OPCA adherents in Australia contend as their reasoning for representing themselves and dismissing anything a lawyer says simply because they are a lawyer.
Firstly, note that this is not for solicitors, but specifically for barristers in the higher courts. Secondly, note that the oath is NOT “to the Bar”, but is clearly an oath of allegiance to “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, as lawful sovereign of Australia, and her other realms and territories, and to her heirs and successors, according to law”, and also it follows, relating to their own conduct whilst in office being “according to law” to the best of their “knowledge and ability.”
Nothing in this Oath expresses any ulterior motives, or anything relating to the Bar, or even suggests that a lawyers true allegiance lies with their particular States Bar Association before the lawful sovereign of Australia, or that they do not intend to conduct themselves “according to law”.
Rather, this OPCA notion seems to imply that the litigant intends to present convoluted, frivolous and vexatious notions that are not “according to law” and also demonstrate their seditious intentions relating to the “lawful sovereign of Australia” under the false pretense of ignorance.