In recent years, the “Common Law” movement has gained traction, presenting itself as an alternative to what it views as the constraints of statutory or “admiralty” law. Proponents argue for the application of common law principles as the true form of law, bypassing government regulations, taxes, and even court orders. But how does this movement align with mainstream legal systems, and is there any merit to its claims?
What is Common Law?
Common law is a system of law based on judicial precedents and case law, rather than written statutes. It is a foundational element of the legal systems in countries like the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Under this system, the decisions made by higher courts serve as legal precedents for lower courts to follow in future cases.
The Extreme Interpretation
Certain groups within the Common Law movement adopt a more radical stance, claiming that they are only subject to laws they have explicitly consented to. They reject the authority of federal and state governments, and some even go so far as to issue their own legal documents and establish their own courts. These extreme views are not recognized by mainstream legal systems, and acting on such beliefs can lead to serious legal repercussions, including imprisonment.
The Risks and Fallacies
While it may be tempting for some to believe they can “opt-out” of the legal system, the practical consequences are far from idealistic. Individuals who subscribe to these extreme interpretations often find themselves in legal trouble. Moreover, the notion that one can selectively choose which laws apply to them undermines the very concept of a functioning legal system, which relies on collective agreement and enforcement.
Public Perception and Legal Reality
The extreme facets of the Common Law movement have been met with skepticism and concern by legal professionals. These interpretations are generally unsupported by established legal theory or judicial practice. Courts in various jurisdictions have consistently rejected arguments predicated on these principles, affirming that they have no basis in the legal system.
While the Common Law movement may not be taken seriously by mainstream legal professionals, its potential for societal impact, especially among those who are attracted to its premises, should not be underestimated. Even if the ideas it propagates are flawed or legally unsound, they are gaining traction among a subset of the population. Actions inspired by this movement can lead to real-world legal complications, financial loss, and a drain on resources for legal systems that are forced to adjudicate baseless claims and actions. Though the Common Law movement may not pose an existential threat to the established legal system, its growing presence and the fervor with which it is advocated suggest that it should not be entirely dismissed. The movement serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us that public understanding of law and governance is crucial and should never be taken for granted.