In Sovereign Movement, Liens Are Wielded as ‘Paper Terrorism’


The New York Times reports that the filing of liens, legal claims on property to secure the payment of a debt, has become a favorite tactic in the spread of an anti-government ideology known as the “sovereign citizen” movement. In one Minnesota case, Thomas and Lisa Eilertson filed more than $250 billion in liens, demands for compensatory damages and other claims against local officials.

Cases involving sovereign citizens are surfacing increasingly in many states, posing a challenge to law enforcement officers and court officials, who often become aware of the movement — a loose network of groups and individuals who do not recognize the authority of federal, state or municipal government — only when they become targets. Although the filing of liens for outrageous sums or other seemingly frivolous claims might appear laughable, dealing with them can be nightmarish, so much so that the F.B.I. has labeled the strategy “paper terrorism.”

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