Members of a growing anti-government extremist group are forming their own “grand juries” around the United States. Some bogus “juries” have already issued demands against local government officials.
The National Liberty Alliance (NLA) is a relatively new sovereign citizen group formed in 2011 as the New York Liberty Alliance by sovereign citizen guru John Darash of Poughkeepsie. In April 2013, Darash changed the group’s name and began efforts to spread nationwide, recruiting sovereign citizens to its banner. The sovereign citizen movement is an extreme anti-government movement whose adherents believe that they can ignore virtually all laws and regulations because the government is the product of a malevolent conspiracy.
Darash and his followers have spent most of their time creating so-called “Common Law Grand Juries” (CLGJ) in counties across the country. According to the NLA, these bogus grand juries have the authority to conduct investigations, issue indictments, and remove officials from office.
The sovereign citizen movement has historically created fictitious judicial or governmental entities, having formed various “citizens’ grand juries” or “people’s grand juries” in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as hundreds of “common law courts” in the 1990s. The CLGJs are the latest variations of this long-running theme. The NLA claims to have formed more than 100 CLGJs in the past year, although many are still basically notional.
Nevertheless, those CLGJs that have formed have already begun harassing local government officials. In January 2014, CLGJs in Marion and St. Johns counties in Florida sent a “Writ of Mandamus” to county officials demanding a budget of $1.5 million, office space and equipment, and a meeting room with a conference table and comfortable chairs. On February 4, the Marion County CLGJ sent a “Notice of Demand” warning county commissioners that the January demands were not optional.
In New York, Darash’s CLGJs claim to have signed a “True Bill” charging the chief court clerk in Greene County with numerous “crimes” related to her alleged failure to file CLGJ paperwork. They have also “fined” a Greene County judge the amount of 100 ounces of silver, citing 23 separate “violations” for failing to provide documents to the CLGJ and for refusing to speak with a CLGJ “Board of Review.” They have also purportedly sent harassing documents to a number of judges.
How the CLGJ will enforce their alleged power remains murky. During an Internet radio interview, Darash said the NLA would contact county sheriffs about making arrests; if a sheriff refused to make an arrest, they would indict him and go to the undersheriff. Darash concluded with a veiled threat: “Now there is another thing to do, if that doesn’t work. I’m not ready to speak about that until we are ready to do it. But it is an atomic bomb, it’s very strong.”