08 October 2018

"Paper terrorism" explained

The term is briefly defined on a Wikipedia entry, but is better explained in a recent Harper's article:
In the spring of 2011, Cherron Marie Phillips, a real estate agent in Chicago, decided to take revenge on twelve government officials who had been involved in prosecuting her brother Devon for drug trafficking. Phillips went to the office of her local recorder of deeds, where she filed a series of liens against the judges, prosecutors, law enforcement agents, and court staff who had taken part in his case... Phillips claimed that Fitzgerald owed her brother $100 billion...

Such tactics have become known as paper terrorism, defined by Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League, as “the use of bogus legal documents and filings, or the misuse of legitimate ones, to intimidate, harass, threaten, or retaliate against public officials, law enforcement officers, or private citizens.” Liens are simple and inexpensive for paper terrorists to file but difficult for victims to scrub away. Even when the claims are obviously fake—alleging debts of outlandish magnitude—the supposed debtors can be forced to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to clear the titles to their homes or to restore their credit ratings...

Recently, current and former inmates, who were introduced to paper terrorism by incarcerated sovereign citizens, have been employing its tactics in nothing-to-lose gambits and harassment campaigns. Since the sovereign citizen movement tends to attract followers during economic downturns, the next one, which seems cyclically due, may bring with it a surge in phony filings. Similarly, Pitcavage warns that if the Democrats return to power—or if Trump is impeached—there will be a wave of anti-government anger on the right, and sovereign citizens will get swept up in it. “Anytime there is a surge in sovereign citizen activity,” he says, “you will see an increase in paper terrorism.”


  1. I think that would qualify as (one of the definitions of) barratry


  2. Heh, reverse civic asset forfeiture.


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