There is a new breed of litigants in town. They go by different names: freemen-on-the-land, sovereign men, sovereign citizen, etc. But at their core, they are the same. They refuse to recognize the authority of the courts or the authority of the government.

These vexatious litigants are guided by gurus. Gurus that claim that by unlocking secret principles, “hidden from the public, but binding on the state, courts and individuals”, people can avoid unwanted obligations, like taxes or child support or criminal sanctions.

These gurus peddle secret principles. And of course  these “secret principles” can be anyones, for a small payment to the guru. Kind of like paying a psychic to lift a curse. A curse that no one else can see but the psychic.

In Meads v. Meads, 2012 ABQB 571, Justice Rooke states that the gurus disseminate their ideas in seminars, books, websites, and instructional DVDs and other recordings. “Latin maxims and powerful sounding language are often used. Documents are often ornamented with many strange marking and seals. Litigants engage in peculiar, ritual‑like in court conduct. All these features appear necessary for gurus to market [their] schemes to their often desperate, ill‑informed, mentally disturbed, or legally abusive customers… [The] scheme is not intended to impress or convince the Courts, but rather to impress the guru’s customer.”

However, unlike a psychic’s power these secret guru principles are eventually tested in court. But, these principles are quickly shot down by judges.  Once a judge “strips away the layers of peculiar language, irrelevant references, and deciphers the often bizarre documentation which accompanies [the] scheme”, it becomes clear that nothing with substance grounds these ideas.

Justice Rooke then lists some questions that anyone thinking of hiring a guru should ask:

 Why do these gurus seem to have little, if any, wealth, when they say they hold the proverbial keys to untold riches?

Why do those gurus not go to court themselves, if they are so certain of their knowledge? If they say they have been to court, ask them for the proceeding file number, and see if their account is accurate. Those are public records.

Can that guru identify even one reported court decision where their techniques proved successful? If not, why then are all successes a tale of an unnamed person, who knew someone who saw that kind of event occur?

How are their ideas different and distinct from those surveyed and rejected in these Reasons?

How are these advisors different from the [] gurus who have been unsuccessful and found themselves in jail?…

Will your advisors promise to indemnify you, when you apply the techniques they claim are foolproof? If not, why?

If they cannot explain these points, then why should you pay them for their legal nonsense?

I would add: if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. “Only two things are certain in life: death and taxes.” And no guru can change that.

But, I must say I find gurus’ questioning of state authority very interesting. We should always be examining the basic premises of our laws, including the Hobbesian/Locke/Rousseau conception of state authority. But such questioning of where state authority comes from, and whether it comes from some fictitious social contract or from some other source, is better left to the philosophers.