February 4, 2014
by Jerry Morgan III
Wilson & Associates, PLLC
USFN Member (Arkansas & Tennessee)
Have you ever been to Shaykamaxum? Chances are, no matter how extensively you’ve traveled across the USA, you’ve never seen signs for Shaykamaxum. You’ve never encountered a Shaykamaxum police force, you’ve never seen border crossings identifying its boundaries, and you’ve never paid a tax to Shaykamaxum. This is because “Shaykamaxum” doesn’t exist, at least as an actual place.
That simple fact, however, has not stopped numerous borrowers throughout the country from claiming that Shaykamaxum does indeed exist. Furthermore, borrowers are claiming to be “diplomats” of the Republic of Shaykamaxum, and that such diplomatic status gives them immunity from the criminal code (either federal or state, depending on which crimes they’re accused of committing), as well as immunity from paying their various debts, including home loans.
To the casual observer, and even to most attorneys and judges, such claims would seem completely out of place, and perhaps unique. Sadly, the opposite is true. More and more borrowers are joining the ever-growing, ever-changing ranks of “sovereign citizen.” As the methods and needs of the sovereign citizen groups have evolved, so too have their litigation strategies.
Who are They?
Loosely defined, sovereign citizens are those who believe (or at least claim to believe) that there are really two governments in the United States: the “original” government that existed before some vast conspiracy infiltrated it, and the “illegitimate” government that now exists, which everybody else believes is genuine. Based on their belief that the current government is illegitimate, sovereigns will go to great lengths to separate themselves from its jurisdiction.
For many years, these ideas were primarily limited to various “supremacist” groups and tax evaders. However, during difficult economic times, sovereign ideas are routinely espoused by those who hope to avoid mounting debts, foreclosures, criminal prosecution, and other legal troubles. Consequently, the last decade has seen a vast increase in debtors turning to these nonsensical theories to avoid foreclosures, evictions, and other lawful collection efforts.
All across the country, courts have been encountering so-called “Moorish groups,” which are primarily radical groups with highly unusual legal theories. These groups tend to believe that their members are not required to follow most federal and state criminal laws or tax laws, and that they are justified in refusing to pay their debts. Many of them claim that their ancestors crossed the Atlantic from Africa to become the first people in this country, giving them “aboriginal” status. As such, they espouse certain unfettered rights, which the federal and state governments have no ability to infringe upon. Many of them assert that the only “real” money is gold or silver, which gives them an argument, as baseless as it may be, that their home loans were not really loans to begin with, meaning they are not required to repay them. Thus, one of the primary “rights” they have is the right to avoid paying their debts.
One such group in Tennessee and elsewhere is the “Shaykamaxum Atlan Amexem Empire, A [sic] Original Indigenous Nation” (Shaykamaxum Republic). The Shaykamaxum Republic has its own website (http://shaykamaxumrepublic.webs.com), appoints members with lofty sounding, though meaningless, titles (such as Emperor/King, Supreme Grand Chief, etc.), has set up its own equally meaningless court system (Grand Supreme Court of Ecclesiastical and Tribal Justice), and attempts to educate its members on avoiding federal and state laws, avoiding and eliminating their debts, and so forth.
One of the first suits involving the Shaykamaxum Republic began with an otherwise ordinary post-foreclosure detainer in Nashville, Tennessee filed by LaSalle Bank against the borrower, Wendy Johnson. LaSalle Bank filed the detainer in General Sessions Court on September 24, 2012. A previously unknown person, “Queen Chatura Waheeda Hatshipsue,” filed a notice of removal to federal court based on her claim of being “a diplomat and official of the Shaykamaxum Atlan Amexem Republic.” “Queen Hatshipsue” signed the notice of removal documents “on behalf of Wendy Johnson.” Interestingly, “Queen Hatshipsue” looked exactly like Wendy Johnson when she appeared for various hearings. Just as interesting, “Queen Hatshipsue” and Wendy Johnson never appeared in the same room at the same time.
In ruling on a motion to remand, the magistrate judge in LaSalle Bank v. Johnson, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 181093, (M.D. Tenn.), noted that “Queen Hatshipsue” had not given any indication that she was an attorney or otherwise had the ability to represent the apparently separate person named Wendy Johnson. The magistrate pointed out that “Queen Hatshipsue” may have been able to file a notice of removal on her own behalf if she was an occupant of the property, but that she had not done so, instead filing the notice on behalf of Wendy Johnson. The magistrate also stated that even if “Queen Hatshipsue” had filed the notice on her own behalf, she still would have needed the consent of Wendy Johnson, as all defendants who have been properly joined and served must consent to removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(2)(A). Of course, because “Queen Chatura Waheeda Hatshipsue” was a purely fictional name, and “Queen Hatshipsue” and Wendy Johnson were one and the same, this was an insurmountable obstacle. The magistrate recommended, and the district court approved, that the motion to remand be granted.
Commenting on the Shaykamaxum Republic, the magistrate judge stated: “There is no indication that such a government exists or is recognized by the United States, such as to make this a case involving a federal question.”
Undeterred, “Queen Hatshipsue” filed a separate action in federal court: Hatshipsue v. LaSalle Bank, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71012 (M.D. Tenn.), in which she made numerous sovereign-type allegations, including being a sovereign of the Shaykamaxum Republic. In a section of the complaint labeled “Subject Matter Jurisdictional Statement,” “Queen Hatshipsue” stated: “Shaykamaxum Atlan Amexem Empire has jurisdiction, however, we come in peace and love to solve this matter under Article VIII Section 9 of the Constitution for the full Autonomy States of Amexem.” The remainder of the complaint set forth numerous nonsensical claims, cited irrelevant state and federal statutes, and was, for all practical purposes, indecipherable. The magistrate judge stated that “the complaint does not contain a single comprehensible theory of recovery against any of the defendants.” Further, the magistrate noted: “There is no possible way that any Defendant can answer the Complaint and no possible way for the Court to glean from the Complaint any set of factual allegations that support a recognizable claim for relief.”
On May 20, 2013, the magistrate judge recommended dismissal. On June 19, 2013, “Queen Hatshipsue” filed a “Writ of Mandamus/Court Order” purporting to be from the “Grand/Supreme Court of Shaykamaxum Atlan Amexem Nation – International Jurisdiction – Judicial Tribunal Court of Record, A Court of Origin, Aula Regis.” That filing was construed to be a motion to remove to the “Supreme Court of Shaykamaxum.” The motion was denied, and the magistrate’s recommendation to dismiss the case was approved in its entirety.
As odd as these pleadings are, they are not unique. In 2013 alone, cases involving the fictitious Shaykamaxum Republic have been found in New Jersey and California. In the New Jersey case of Noble v. Thalheimer, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13129, the plaintiff claimed to be “His Imperial Majesty, Emperor, Judah Abrahim Bey Isra’el of the Shaykamaxum Atlan Amexem Empire, A [sic] Original Indigenous Nation.” The case was dismissed with prejudice.
In the California case, Jolivette v. People of the State of California, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 145489, the plaintiff attempted to register a “judgment” from the “Shaykamaxum Grand/Supreme Court” with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. While that matter remains pending, the magistrate has issued an order to show cause for the plaintiff to show why the case should not be dismissed. The magistrate, citing LaSalle Bank v. Johnson, stated that “there is no indication that such a government exists or is recognized by the United States.”
Tennessee attorneys, it appears, will also have to continue dealing with the Shaykamaxum Republic claims. In another post-foreclosure case, Hayes v. Burns, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 119345 (M.D. Tenn.), the plaintiffs, Michael and Wendy Hayes, claimed to be citizens of the Shaykamaxum Republic. They sought $30,000,000 for various violations under both state and federal statutes, claiming that they were entitled to such damages under the “Constitution of the Shaykamaxum Republic, Atlan Amexem Empire” and the “Constitution of the Full Autonomy States of Amexem.” The magistrate judge, in his recommendation for dismissal, labeled the Shaykamaxum Republic “a mysterious alternative jurisdiction.” His recommendation was approved in all aspects by the district court, and the case was dismissed.
Borrowers claiming to be diplomats of this nonexistent republic have attempted to file judgments from the Shaykamaxum Republic “court” system; they have sent notices to creditors from the Shaykamaxum Republic “court” system requiring appearances for depositions and arbitrations, and have filed other non-binding documents in order to thwart legal attempts to collect on their debts.
As the above-referenced cases illustrate, those who are desperate to set aside otherwise valid foreclosures will stop at nothing to make their cases, no matter how illogical and nonsensical. Perhaps it’s a natural fit that they would join with “sovereign citizen” claimants in a final effort to continue residing in property for which they haven’t made a payment in years.
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