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'Sovereign Citizen' Emperor Can't Remove Case to Federal Court

By Mark Wilson, Esq. | Last updated on

A "sovereign citizen" who claims he's a "crown prince emperor" can't remove his case to federal court, a judge has ruled.

What are "sovereign citizens"? They're Americans who, for some reason, don't believe the law applies to them. They are real problems in some parts of the country, where they gum up local court systems by filing copious documents containing ridiculous legalese and citations lifted out of context from court opinions.

Sovereign citizens claim the U.S. government has no power over them, as they are their own sovereign nation, and they're governed by English common law (if they're governed by anything at all). Their antics can from delightfully misanthropic to seriously dangerous.

Meet Emperor Bagby

From New Jersey comes Crown Prince Emperor El Bey Bigbay Bagby, formerly known as William McRae, who is being prosecuted in Pennsylvania for a variety of criminal offenses. The Raw Story reports that his charges include having fake diplomatic license plates on his car and driving while intoxicated.

McRae claims that he's a member of the Powhatan Renape Tribe, which is a real Indian tribe in southern New Jersey. But actual Powhatans say that McRae isn't a member, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. In 2009, McRae claimed membership in the Abannaki Aboriginal Nation, "American Indians who were actually Moors and members of the Lost Tribe of Israel," reported The Trentonian.

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McRae filed a civil suit against the Bucks County Common Pleas Court in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, claiming that there was diversity jurisdiction because he was a citizen of the Powhatan Renape Tribe, not the state of New Jersey. The federal court tossed his case back to common pleas court on July 9, as the District Court couldn't exercise federal civil diversity jurisdiction over a state criminal case.

Not Isolated Events

Emperor El Bay Bigbay Bagby isn't even the latest sovereign citizen to show up in Pennsylvania. On July 15, a bank robber named Ishaq Ibrahim claimed the state didn't have jurisdiction over his case, The Mercury reported. And another sovereign citizen, Kevin Green, interrupted both judge and prosecutor during his robbery trial, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Green claimed that the proceedings were unlawful because he refused to consent to the court's jurisdiction.

Originally tax protesters, sovereign citizens refuse to adhere to regulations as minimal as pet licensing requirements, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC estimates that there might have been 100,000 "hard-core sovereign believers" in the United States in 2011.

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