Rare is the court judgment that gains fame outside legal circles, and rarer still is one that becomes known for its artistry. So it's gratifying to see Justice John Rooke's tour de force, Meads v. Meads, near the top of the hit parade this week on the country's database of rulings and statutes.
Like It's a Wonderful Life, the decision has gained a following after its time.
For those who missed it, Meads is the Alberta Court of Queens Bench's definitive take-down of the so-called "sovereign man," or "Freemen-on-the-Land" movement. These are folks who claim the the law applies only to their legal persons and not their "natural," physical persons. Ergo, the "natural person" doesn't have to pay taxes, or carry a driver's licence, or in the case of Dennis Meads, submit to divorce proceedings.
Rooke calls them Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument litigants (OPCAs), which is a much nicer term than they're used to. Most, he notes, have been duped into advancing their arguments by gurus who charge money to school them in pseudo-legal hogwash. His exposition of the gurus' technique is exhaustive. His laceration of OPCA clap-trap-from his Thomas Hobbes epigram to his rueful coda-is exquisite.
Some savoury passages:
"When reduced to their conceptual core, most OPCA concepts are contemptibly stupid. Mr. Meads, for example, has presented the Court with documents that appear to be a contract between himself, and himself. One Mr. Meads promises to pay for any liability of the other Mr. Meads. One owns all property, the other all debts. What is the difference between these entities? One spells his name with upper case letters. The other adds spurious and meaningless punctuation to his name. Mr. Meads (with punctuation) is the Mr. Meads who appeared in court. He says the Mr. Meads (all capitals) is the one who should pay child and spousal support."
"So where is that Mr. Meads (all capitals)? At one point in the June 8 hearing Mr. Meads said that Mr. Meads (all capitals) was a "corporate entity" attached to his birth certificate. Later, he told me that the other Mr. Meads was a "person" – and that I had created him! Again, total nonsense."
"OPCA arguments are never sold to their customers as simple ideas, but instead are byzantine schemes which more closely resemble the plot of a dark fantasy novel than anything else."
"Translated out of 'gibberese', Mr. Meads is purportedly assigning the value of his birth certificate, a "commercial transaction" presumably with Canada, to his "flesh and blood" self."
"Mr. Meads is Mr. Meads in all his physical or imaginary aspects. He would experience and obtain the same effect and success if he appeared in court and selectively donned and removed a rubber Halloween mask which portrays the appearance of another person, asserting at this or that point that the mask's person is the one liable to Ms. Meads. Not that I am encouraging, or indeed would countenance, the wearing of a mask in my courtroom."
On the "gurus":
"In his poem Inferno at Cantos 26-30, Dante placed the 'evil counsellors' - those who used their position to advise others to engage in fraud, and "the falsifiers" - alchemists, counterfeiters, perjurers, and imposters, into the inner canyons of the eighth circle of hell. As sinners, the evil counsellors and falisifiers were matched by those who induce religious schisms, and surpassed only in fault by oath-breakers."
"Persons who purposefully promote and teach proven ineffective techniques that purport to defeat valid state and court authority, and circumvent social obligations, appear to fall into those two categories. That they do so, and for profit at the expense of naive and vulnerable customers, is worse."
"William S. Burroughs in Naked Lunch (New York: Grove Press, 1962, p. 11) wrote: "Hustlers of the world, there is one Mark you cannot beat: The Mark Inside." I believe that is true for you. At some basic level, you understand that you are selling lies, or at the very most generous, wildly dubious concepts."
Rooke concludes with a plea to Dennis Meads to show the decision to the people advising him and "scrutinize their response."
To the Canadian taxpayer-who has been paying the freight for OPCA drivel in court costs and unpaid taxes-he leaves this judgment. It's no small favour.