‘PSEUDOLAW’ nomenclature

Dr Donald J. Netolitzky KC;

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“Pseudolaw is a collection of legal-sounding but false rules that purport to be superior laws suppressed by conspiratorial actors. Pseudolaw replaces conventional law. Modern pseudolaw emerged around 2000 in right-wing and often racist US Sovereign Citizen communities, but has subsequently spread world-wide to groups with diverse political, racial, economic, and social objectives. Pseudolaw purports to shift authority away from state and institutional actors and to individuals, and is attractive to dissident groups who resist conventional authority. Pseudolaw is politically agnostic since pseudolaw does not change or create the ideologies and objectives of these dissident groups, but instead empowers them. Pseudolaw aggravates interactions between its host populations and conventional government, court, and law enforcement actors. As pseudolaw expanded outside of its Sovereign Citizen incubator, pseudolaw ceased to be sequestered knowledge taught by gurus and held by privileged groups. Pseudolaw has merged into the cultic milieu: a collection of rejected and marginal ideas, resources, and history. A broad range of conspiratorial and outsider communities and individuals mine the cultic milieu. In this context pseudolaw has become a separate legal system available to those who seek a different explanation for law, and the extraordinary privileges and immunities that pseudolaw falsely promises.” – Donald J. Netolitzky; “A Revolting Itch: Pseudolaw as a Social Adjuvant “

I would like to make a public statement correcting certain nomenclature regarding myself and the PSEUDOLAW PHENOMENON in an increasing number of media pieces. I have always stood firm on my refusal to misuse a certain label, which I explained to journalists off-print, but as time and size restraints go, were never actually reported accurately. I believe this needs a comprehensive clarification, which I hope this article provides for journalists as a future reference. I’m going to be very careful in future. Either we have formal agreement as to the use of the correct nomenclature in media articles, or I would prefer not have my name referenced at all.


The implication suggests I had some attachment to, or affiliation with these particular groups, which is very much false and misrepresented, which quite understandably, is the result of a flawed understanding of the complex nuances of the PSEUDOLAW phenomenon.

I commented on The Australian article: “Police shooting sparks sov-cit expert to warn of rising ‘cult’ danger“, but I didn’t have enough room for my full comment, so a whole article came into being.

As there is no comments section on the SBS The Feed article: “Robert says being a sovereign citizen is like having a ‘mind virus’. He’d know, he used to be one“. I requested the journalist post add a postscript addressing use of the “Sovereign Citizens” label. But it was later updated to reflect a former “Freeman on the Land” position as opposed to a former “Sovereign Citizen” position. While this is closer to home, (as the particular variety I adhered to did contain a few FMOTL motifs) it is still not accurate, as there were also quite a number of other motifs that were solely Australian constitutional misconceptions, (discussed below) which are most definitely not linked to any external origin. Secondly, I also never claimed to be a “Freeman on the Land” or even any affiliation with that Canadian group, any more than I did with the US group “Sovereign Citizens“.

I felt pedantic requesting another edit, but the information in the article about me was subsequently referenced verbatim by another news source, in News: “Fed-up cop drags ‘sovereign citizen’ from car” so I felt the need to make a stand on this point.

Further correspondence with the editor of SBS The Feed, and there was a third correction, All references to myself as having any connection to any “group” whether it be in the US, Canada, or even here in Australia was removed, and replaced with the correct terminology in context with my own connection with these ideas. I would like to thank Michelle and Erin for accommodating this accurate portrayal, it is among the first in the Australian media of actually using nomenclature that refers to these ideas, and not necessarily groups. SBS has set a great example of progressive journalism here, with the introduction into the media vernacular of the academically correct “pseudolaw movement” and “pseudolaw adherent” terminology, and I really hope the rest of the Australian media take the opportunity to adopt this example.

There are distinct Australian pseudolaw groups, but generally, we are talking about ideas, not groups. Like myself, when I wanted to try this stuff, I was on my own. I read people’s memes and write-ups on Facebook, they shared all the theory for free. But it’s not like they accept liability or something, there is no support, no gang turning up to rescue you, you’re on your own. It is a very personal, individual thing. THAT is the position of the average pseudolaw adherent in Australia. Alone. An individual. With an idea. Not attached or affiliated to any organisation or GROUP, just someone experimenting with IDEAS. This distinction is SO important.

The same occurred with an earlier ABC article: “COVID-19 is accelerating the rise of conspiracy and sovereign citizen movements in Australia

The PSEUDOLAW Adherent

The public and media have to understand that there ARE no “Freeman on the Land” or “Sovereign Citizens” in Australia. They are both foreign groups. The perception of a “movement” representing an organised global or national structure of some kind is fundamentally flawed. It is presented like one has to “sign up” to become a “member” of the “Sovereign Citizen movement” like it’s a sports club or political party. It is nothing like that at all. It is presented like there exists “offshoots” of a main body, as opposed to a completely different group with fundamentally opposite objectives and beliefs. While there may be various “gurus” material that the adherent emulates, there is generally no hierarchy or formal organised paradigm anyway. Collaborations exist within particular groups, but the ideological differences between various groups prevent a successful merger of ideas and members. It is generally very much an individual thing, a exertion of extreme individual autonomy, which is actually antithetical to the concept of an organised global or national centralised structure.

The insistence by media of identifying adherents of Australian PSEUDOLAW as “Sovereign Citizens” is very much academically incorrect. It is particularly problematic as it holds immediate connotations of right-wing extremist ideologies, particularly in this example the white supremacist and anti-Semitic Posse Comitatus, opposing the 13th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution and the political motives of the Confederate States which later reappeared in opposition to the Civil Rights Movement. Concepts such as an “Article 4 Free Inhabitant” from the Civil War Articles of Confederation, refusing to recognise Federal Citizenship and instead identifying as “state nationals”, with the belief that the Sherrif is the highest authority in the County, super-nationalists who sought to reform and restore the “organic US constitution” prior to these amendments. Even in the latter US evolutions, the frequent references to the Uniform Commercial Code and other US legislation make “Sovereign Citizens” a specific localised US phenomenon.

The Canadian “Freeman on the Land Movement” started by Robert Menard (now extinct) is a completely different group with a different ideology, repackaged to appeal to, infect and colonise radically different host populations with a diverse range of political, economic, cultural, religious, and criminal objectives. The “Sovereign Citizens” label with its inherent “right-wing extremist” connotations could no longer be made to apply to the left-leaning Canadian adherents of PSEUDOLAW. Although it was a specific localised Canadian phenomenon, the appeal for certain motifs was shared in other nations, primarily by those with similar political leanings.

The “Sovereign Citizen” label does not even come close to being an accurate descriptive moniker, as the Australian PSEUDOLAW sphere is likewise a whole spectrum of individuals from radically different host populations. I continue to monitor and document several groups that cling to the more “old-school” constitutional arguments, with associated motifs that could be characterised as right-wing as they seek to “Restore the Commonwealth” to arrangements prior to the various points in time that each individual group ascribes to. However, the average PSEUDOLAW adherent is not likely to be some staunch right-wing super-nationalist, but rather those with leftist, green, neo-hippie, new-age, pro-cannabis, pro-first nations, pro- refugee, anti-capitalist and anti-globalization type beliefs.

Another problematic result of failing to make a clear differentiation between very distinctly opposite groups, and instead broadly applying the misused “Sovereign Citizen” label, is that it misrepresents that group’s probable behaviour, risk, and threat characteristics. This could have deadly consequences for police officers and other government officials, as well as the alternate, waste needed resources on situations with a very limited threat and risk.

The most accurate nomenclature is “PSEUDOLAW ADHERENT” because it includes all the various groups and their nuances, instead of referring to a particular one, mistakenly or otherwise. This is not a term that I coined, but rather, what is accepted in academic literature and the judgements of the appellate courts as being accurate.

Please read the concurring reasons as observed by my friend Donald Netolitzky in his recent paper “The Dead Sleep Quiet: History of the Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument Phenomenon in Canada – Part II“:

And even the excellent Wikipedia summary “PSEUDOLAW“:

They “don’t fit on the left–right spectrum”

In “A Revolting Itch: Pseudolaw as a Social Adjuvant“, Donald Netolitzky makes further observations that the PSEUDOLAW evolutions were composed of distinct populations, and can no longer be linked to a specific political/social/cultural belief. The former “far right extremist” and “racist” characteristics of the Posse Comitatus were lost in the repackaging of the US concepts by Eldon Warman, to appeal to a largely left-wing population, which was then easier to export to nations like Australia.

As noted in the Director-General’s Annual Threat Assessment, the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Mike Burgess, observed that recent anti-government “sovereign citizen” individuals and groups “…don’t fit on the left–right spectrum”. He announced the organisation would dump terms such as “rightwing extremism” and “leftwing extremism” due to this evolution. In the Victoria Police submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Inquiry into Extremist Movements and Radicalism in Australia, Victoria police said extreme leftwing and rightwing individuals had joined conspiracy-based groups espousing “conflating ideologies” during the pandemic, something it says has proved a challenge for law enforcement. 

The Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument

These evolutions need to be properly understood by journalists. You will not find a single reference in over 3000 pages of my encyclopedia, where I refer to those influenced by the localised concepts as “Sovereign Citizens“. The only time I use it is to refer to the specific US groups to which it applies. This is because I try to be accurate and not misrepresent the subsequent evolutions in Commonwealth nations. I also make a clear distinction between OPCA adherents or litigants, and those solely with misconceived constitutional arguments and other basic matters. The title of my encyclopedia is not “Sovereign Citizens in Australia” or “Freeman on the Land in Australia” for good reason. Both implications would be false. Just like the title in Donald Netolitzki’s Canadian work, it is called “The Organised Pseudolegal Commercial Argument in Australia“.

In Meads v Meads 2012 ABQB 571, Associate Chief Justice Rooke of the Court of Queens Bench in Alberta Canada, coined the term “organised pseudolegal commercial arguments” to better describe the phenomenon, which has long since been adopted by the judiciary in Australia. This encompasses both the US and Canadian movements that can be traced back ideologically to the original Posse Comitatus philosophy, whatever their moniker or even if they have none. It is a far better approach, as you instead focus on the argument, not the person.

“This Court has developed a new awareness and understanding of a category of vexatious litigant. As we shall see, while there is often a lack of homogeneity, and some individuals or groups have no name or special identity, they (by their own admission or by descriptions given by others) often fall into the following descriptions: Detaxers; Freemen or Freemen-on-the-Land; Sovereign Men or Sovereign Citizens; Church of the Ecumenical Redemption International (CERI); Moorish Law; and other labels – there is no closed list. In the absence of a better moniker, I have collectively labelled them as Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument litigants [“OPCA litigants”], to functionally define them collectively for what they literally are.

These persons employ a collection of techniques and arguments promoted and sold by ‘gurus’ (as hereafter defined) to disrupt court operations and to attempt to frustrate the legal rights of governments, corporations, and individuals. Over a decade of reported cases have proven that the individual concepts advanced by OPCA litigants are invalid. What remains is to categorize these schemes and concepts, identify global defects to simplify future response to variations of identified and invalid OPCA themes, and develop court procedures and sanctions for persons who adopt and advance these vexatious litigation strategies.”

Meads v Meads is referred to an ever-growing number of Australian decisions catalogued on this website. The term generally used by the courts is “organised pseudolegal commercial argument litigants”, to describe those who adhere to this particular type of PSEUDOLAW. There is only 2 references in all the database decisions that even mention “Sovereign Citizen”, and both were using it specifically to describe the “US Sovereign Citizen Movement” for context. The term applied to anyone in Australia by the judiciary is simply non-existent in the case law.

The following are just some Australian cases explicitly referring to either Meads v Meads or the “organised pseudolegal commercial argument“: Ennis v Credit Union Australia [2016] FCCA 1705, Kosteska v Magistrate Manthey & Anor [2013] QCA 105, Adelaide City Council v Lepse [2016] SASC 66, Deputy Commissioner of Taxation v Woods [2018] FCCA 1815, Lion Finance Pty Ltd v Johnston [2018] FCCA 2745, Coshott v Spencer [2016] NSWDC 43, ACM Group Ltd v Jenner [2014] QMC 7, Hewitt & Corbett 7 Anor [2016] FCCA 776, K Sheridan v Colin Biggers & Paisley [2019] NSWSC 528 / 621, Warren Ronald Wichman v Pepper Finance Corporation Limited [2019] NSWCA 195, Rossiter v Adelaide City Council [2020] SASC 61, Bauskis v Wainhouse & Ors [2020] NSWCA 17, Petrie; Trustee of the property of Aitken (Bankrupt) v Aitken & Ors [2019] FCCA 16, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited v Grahame [2020] VSC 86, Deputy Commissioner Of Taxation v Cutts (No.4) [2019] FCCA 2866.

This is an extract from the transcript of one of Ross Bradley‘s 2019 cases. He was later declared a vexatious litigant in Bradley v The Queen [2021] QCA 101. Note the underlined sections where the Bench references Rooke ACJ verbatim, while applying it to the defendant who had no moniker:

I document the individual concepts advanced by Australian adherents of PSEUDOLAW.

I’ve read and summarised all of Ross Bradley‘s published decisions. I’ve also spent many years pointing out to him the various authorities that his theories were inconsistent with on Facebook. Sadly, as Sofronoff P dismissed his arguments summarily, I don’t believe Ross actually received adequate explanatory response to his arguments from the Court. I was actually looking forward to a lengthy published reasons from the President, but alas. This disappointment must of been shared by Cash QC DCJ, as observed in the Queensland District Court in R v Sweet [2021] QDC 216, referencing Bradley:

“Recognising that the arguments presented by OPCA litigants are largely incoherent, if not incomprehensible, courts have been increasingly willing to dismiss their claims summarily. [See Bradley] While I think the present application is devoid of merit, I do propose to mention at least some reasons why that is so, in the hope that it might dissuade similar pointless applications in the future.”

His Honour then delivered an extraordinarily concise judgement addressing the PSEUDOLAW “strawman” contention. Referencing several papers from Donald Netolitzki and Meads v Meads, His Honour went on to observe what he also called “OPCA litigants” after the moniker coined by Rooke ACJ: “organised pseudolegal commercial argument litigants” Glen Cash went on to publish a paper of a speech he made to the Queensland Magistrates’ State Conference 2022 “A kind of magic: the origins and culture of ‘Pseudolaw‘”.in which he describes the evolution. 

The Australian PSEUDOLAW memeplex

Sovereign Citizens” are a specific US group that uses US law. “Freeman on the Land” are a specific Canadian group that uses Canadian law. Today, both of the original groups are relatively extinct even in their own host nations, their original ideologies having since been replaced with subsequent evolutions and adaptions.

The need for a recognised distinction between various groups (and the differing ideologies they individually adhere to), cannot be more apparent for example, in the US Free Moorish Nation. Sure, certain motifs of that original Posse Comitatus philosophy were adopted into their ideology, but others were completely opposed, with one being white supremacist, the other virtually being black supremacist. Most aspects of the original ideology became extinct, or were repackaged in other forms, which are very different and even contrary to it. A similar evolution to the Moors occurred here in Australia with the Original Sovereign Tribal Federation. The misuse of the US term “Sovereign Citizen” by the media and general public with its “far-right extremist” implications, even made some new to the idea arrive at the ridiculously absurd conclusion that a group of Aboriginal activists protesting in Canberra were “white supremacist“. This demonstrates a pressing need for public education on the nuances of various PSEUDOLAW concepts and the clear distinctions between the various groups that adhere to differing ideologies. Hence we really should start by referring to these individual groups with the correct terminology.

The Australian PSEUDOLAW memeplex contains many differing assertions and contentions, some concepts of which have no origin in the US or Canadian movements, but are instead based, for example, on constitutional misconceptions, or other solely localised concepts. Misunderstandings about the meaning of the Crown since Isaacson v Durant (1886) the recognition of divisibility leading to the Royal Styles and Titles Acts 1953 and 1973, or regarding the effect of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles 1919 on national sovereignty, or the change in the Commonwealth’s relations with the UK due to the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942, and identically with the states with the Australia Acts 1986.

These things are NOT related to the US “Sovereign Citizen” motifs, or the Canadian “Freeman on the Land” motifs, they are completely different areas of PSEUDOLAW. These particular arguments represent the majority of PSEUDOLAW argumentation. Please refer to the summary Australian Pseudolaw Argumentation for further analysis.

People that say: “I’m sovereign. Australian courts and Australian law has no jurisdiction over me!!” are not “Sovereign Citizens” by reason of this point. After all, SOVEREIGNTY is the general term used to describe complete individual autonomy, the notion that there is no mortal higher before the creator. The same notion expressed by some Aboriginal activists claiming that terra nullius was a lie overturned by the Mabo decision so the British settled this continent by deception, that the settlement was an invasion and the Coloniser’s government ultimately has no jurisdiction over any Aboriginal people or their land. That they are each sovereign. These are common, widely held political beliefs among Aboriginal communities. The sovereignty argument did not originate with the US Posse Comitatus, but it displays several key PSEUDOLAW motifs, and cannot be upheld by the High Court.

NOBODY that adheres to Australian PSEUDOLAW motifs self-identifies as a “Sovereign Citizen“. In fact, they all vehemently oppose the implication, it actually triggers a subconscious mental block about the term being an “oxymoron” and that’s not at all helpful to constructive dialogue. Some are tied to certain gurus, some certain groups, others follow them all independently out of interest, but generally none use any such moniker. The pinning of this very false label on these individuals causes a natural, and in my opinion quite justified psychological reaction, which further reinforces their anti-government sentiments and paranoia, not only because it confirms for them that the mainstream media lies, but that government is actively plotting to further victimise them for their beliefs. We should question the wisdom of using labels at all, as it serves only to perpetually alienate, the opposite effect of what is required to help these indoctrinated people.

We are dealing with the pre-programed automated responses of a systematised belief structure here, that has been protected by self-hypnosis reinforced “mind-blocks” by way of repetition of key phrases or mantras, activated by specific triggers which consequentially form an impenetrable phycological wall that’s self-defeating to any constructive resolution.

From a structural perspective, I’d draw a comparison with the structure of the Christian faith. We have the Catholic religion. And then we have a distinct reformation in the ideology, leading to the Protestant religion. Then there were hundreds of distinct reformations and adaptions in the ideology, each one forming further denominations, Methodist, Baptist, etc etc. Some have no moniker at all. You cannot accurately label someone who follows a Seventh-Day Adventist philosophy as a “Catholic“. It makes no sense, their fundamental philosophy is anti-Catholic. I heard if you did that to a devout Protestant in Ireland you might get yourself shot. Such a mislabel can be insulting to someone’s inner being, their spiritual core, their very person and reason for existence. Insulting someone’s firmly-held belief is like insulting their god, and some do take it personally, even to the point of violence.

When someone states emphatically that they are NOT a “Sovereign Citizen“, please believe them, because they are technically correct. There have been far too many evolutions, and it is still ongoing. Ask them what moniker or group they identify with, if they have one, and be respectful of their choices. The continued broad use of this derogatory label serves only as an intentional insult, not truthful reporting of the PSEUDOLAW phenomenon. It is an imposed label. Comparatively speaking, it’s as insulting to most PSEUDOLAW adherents as misgendering, or assuming the word “Aboriginal” forms the conclusive identity of an individual Gumbaynggirr tribal descendant. Think about that.

Let’s not ostracize them. We need to remedy their profound alienation from general society. The stress consequential to trauma, caused by witnessing the plenary power of the state and heavy-handed police responses not seen for generations, has made them disillusioned and therefore susceptible to anti-government sentiment. PSEUDOLAW can be a natural progression from there, because it offers hope, the “Freedom Movements” a sense of belonging. Our object should be, in all logic, to attack the cause of the problem, not all point fingers and laugh at the symptom of the cause. By demonising and mocking them so, we are effectively pushing these damaged people further and further into the open arms of the PSEUDOLAW promoters.

Is that what you want? Ask yourself.

Remember, I’m talking from personal experience here. I was indoctrinated by PSEUDOLAW. The compassionate in-court gestures of Magistrate David Heilpern, the time he took and the patience he showed in his attempts to fully understand my absurd position, was a formative memory that forever changed the way my brain processed information. Since then, a decade on the front line has taught me that my entire compilation of thousands of authoritative decisions and so much more, is a failure when it comes to effectively assisting PSEUDOLAW adherents themselves.

This PSEUDOLAW mind virus is an illogical apparition, something that cannot be solved by engaging an adherent’s sense of logic, fact, law, rational thought etc, but rather, the contrast. The dialogue must be philosophical, emotional, or cultural. We can start, at the very least, by dropping this false “Sovereign Citizen” label and using the correct nomenclature when describing the PSEUDOLAW phenomenon, the various PSEUDOLAW groups, and individual PSEUDOLAW adherents.

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