Common Law Courts Manual


The big and thorny issue, of course, is not whether men and women can come to a Court verdict, but rather, how their decision can be enforced, and effective in their community. This is especially an issue when the verdict is imposed against heads of church or state, or even entire institutions, as in the February 25, 2013 verdict of the International Common Law Court of Justice (ICLCJ) concerning Genocide in Canada. (

To use that case as an example, the moral weight of the verdict was clearly the strongest weapon in the arsenal of the Court, and created the conditions for the enforcement of the verdict against the thirty officials of church and state named in the indictment.

For one thing, the February 25 verdict – which sentenced all the defendants to public banishment, twenty five years in prison and the loss of all property and assets – directly helped depose not only Pope Benedict, Joseph Ratzinger, but the most powerful Catholic Cardinal in Rome: the Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, who also resigned while in office after the ICLCJ verdict was pronounced.

Ratzinger and Bertone know about international law, even if others don’t. They understand that the verdict of the ICLCJ carries a recognized legitimacy under the Law of Nations and the public right to form Tribunals of Conscience when governments and courts refuse to address a matter. And the Vatican also knows that the ICLCJ verdict can be entered into other nation’s courts and used for the issuing of arrest warrants against proven war criminals like church officers. And so the resignation of these ostensibly “untouchable” church leaders in the spring of 2013 is simple proof of the power of independent, common law court verdicts.

A court verdict, after all, is a binding order carrying with it the full force of the law, and whoever ignores or subverts such a verdict, and the Court’s orders arising from it, is guilty of an indictable crime.

In the Appendix to this Manual, we have reprinted all of the Court documents related to that first ICLCJ case of Genocide in Canada. The Court Order and Arrest Warrant dated March 5, 2013, can be acted on by any sworn agent of the ICLCJ or whoever such an Agent appoints. Any citizen, in short, can assist in the arrest of Joseph Ratzinger, Tarcisio Bertone and the twenty eight other officials of church and state found guilty of Crimes against Humanity by the ICLCJ.

Such enforcement of the law by citizens themselves is generally recognized in most countries, under the precedent known generically as “the Right of Citizens’ Arrest”. In Canada, for example, under a law known as the Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act (2012), citizens can detain anyone who either commits a crime or is even suspected of having done so, or who poses a threat to their own or others’ safety: like, for our purposes, a child raping priest. This power of Citizens Arrest has in fact been broadened under this new Canadian law, from what it was previously. (see :

In theory, then, the enforcement of Common Law Court verdicts by any citizen is not only perfectly legitimate and lawful, but is guaranteed even under the laws of countries dominated by Civil, statute law. But power, as we know, is not only about laws and theory, but ultimately involves naked force: the capacity of one group to impose its will upon another.

Hugh Grotius, a sixteenth century pioneer of international law, said that legal principles acquired power only when backed by cannon fire. So besides its legal and moral weight, what “cannons” will back up and enforce the verdicts of our Common Law courts? Especially when the fire power of those we are sentencing and arresting is apparently so much greater than ours?

Another great pioneer, the Chinese general Sun Tzu, wrote millennia ago that in any conflict, power is not ultimately what you have materially but rather psychologically; and the superior firepower of a much bigger enemy can always be negated with the right, unforeseen maneuvers. (We’ve reprinted forty of Sun Tzu’s most relevant teachings in Appendix C).

Those rulers indicted by the ICLCJ are men and women garbed by the illusory robes of their offices, and they are guarded by other men and women who, like the rulers themselves, are motivated primarily by fear. That fear is their greatest weakness, and can be easily exploited by even a small group of people, as anyone who has occupied a Roman Catholic church learns very quickly.

The fact that laws guard the rich and the powerful is not as important as the reality that any functional law rests upon its moral and political legitimacy. Once such legitimacy is weakened or gone, the laws and hard physical power of a state or church begin to crumble. Once public confidence in a ruler wanes, internal divisions appear in the ruling hierarchy, and usually a “palace coup” occurs and the regime falls. We are witnessing precisely such developments and such a collapse of legitimacy within the Roman Catholic church today, in the manner of events prior to the deposing of any dictatorship.

And so the short answer to the question, how do we enforce our verdicts in the face of the power of the enemy, is simply, we do as Sun Tzu teaches, and strike at the weakest, not the strongest, part of that enemy.

The weak point of any institution, especially a church, is its public image and its source of money. Threaten either, and the entire institution must respond to the smallest of enemies. We have proven that in practice. And the very fact of our smallness gives us a freedom and flexibility to strike at such big targets when and how we like: a power that is denied to big institutions.

A Common Law Court verdict like the one of February 25 is a wedge between the credibility of an institution like the Vatican and the rest of the world. Clearly, by striking at that credibility – a weak link in the church’s chain – we are maneuvering around the obvious strong points of that opponent and hitting them where they have no defense: the fact that as an organization, they officially protect and aid child rapists and human trafficking. And it was precisely by doing such a strategic maneuver that on August 4, 2013, the Vatican was declared a Transnational Criminal Organization under international law. (, August 3)

As such a criminal body, the Vatican can now be legally disestablished, its officers arrested, and its property and wealth seized, not simply under Common Law but according to the Law of Nations. (see The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, November 2000, articles 5, 6 and 12:

So while it isn’t normally possible to immediately detain heads of states or corporations after a sentence is passed against them, such an arrest does follow naturally as their credibility and protection diminishes. Their overt power tends to crumble as the law and public condemnation works around their strong defenses and undermines them, like water flowing around a wall or a rock.

The point of any Common Law Court verdict, after all, is not to target or imprison mere individuals, but to stop any threat to the helpless and to the community: to arrest such threats so they do not reoccur, primarily by ending the institutional source of those  threats. And our chief means to do so is the moral weight of our evidence and verdicts combined with the capacity of many people to enforce those verdicts.

Common Law Sheriffs and Peace Officers

That brings us to a key aspect of the Court: its police arm, without which it cannot function.
The tradition of Common Law sheriffs is an old one in the English speaking world: men or women appointed from the local community to detain those harming others, bring them into town or “shire” courts for judgement, and enforce that court’s sentence. In the United States, that tradition is still alive and embodied in locally elected sheriffs who are granted considerable power within their communities.

The role of the Common Law Court Sheriff is fourfold: to provide security for the Court, to deliver Court Summonses and Orders to Appear, to detain and physically deliver to Court those summoned who evade a Court Order, and finally, to enforce the final sentence of the Court, including by jailing and monitoring the guilty.

The Sheriff does not perform these duties alone, but with deputies and other agents he appoints to assist him. Such a “posse” is another pejorative term that actually refers to an important traditional custom of mobilizing all the able bodied men in a community to stop anyone who has committed a crime. The word “posse” comes from a Latin term “pro toto posse suo” meaning “to do the utmost in one’s power”.

According to one writer,

All persons who were the victims of a crime in Anglo-Saxon England were expected to raise their “hue and cry” and apprehend the criminal; and upon hearing their cry, every able-bodied man in the community was expected to do the “utmost in his power” (pro toto posse suo) to chase and apprehend the accused as a “posse”.
– 1215: The Year of Magna Carta by J. Danziger et al (2003)

The custom of electing community peace officers like sheriffs, in other words, arose from the belief that everyone in a community had the obligation to police and protect themselves and their children. The Court Sheriff is thereby the servant of the people, taken from among them, answerable to and recallable by them, and not an external force over them.

Part of the power of such a Sheriff is that he can deputize anyone to assist him, including other police officers and agents of the very institutions being named and tried in Common Law courts. This is an especially important action and tactic during this, the early stages of the development of our local Common Law courts, since it uses the very strength of the system we are opposing against itself.

To give an example, if a Common Law Court Summons or Arrest Warrant is to be delivered against a church or government official, the Court Sheriff will first deliver a copy of it to the local, existing police agency along with a Deputizing Notice placing those police under the jurisdiction of the Common Law. (See Court Documents, Appendix B). As such, the police are then obligated to assist the Sheriff and must take the same Oath of Common Law Office as the Sheriff.

If those issued such a Notice deny or dispute it or refuse to take the Oath, they are then ordered to stand down from their position and to not interfere with the Sheriff in his duties. If they agree with the Notice, either directly or through their silence or non-interference, such police agencies are tacitly abiding by the Common Law action, and the normal protection around criminals in high office is suddenly nullified.

Such a remarkable encounter is in effect an enormous tug of war between two contending legal systems: a battle of wills, played out in full public view as an enormous “teaching moment”. Our aim is to create and encourage such a creative confrontation and moral conflict at every level of official society.

This is the bigger and crucial point of that particular confrontation between Court Sheriffs and Civil law policemen, which must always be visible and televised to the world as it occurs: that it is a chance for the people to learn directly that those policemen and soldiers who provide the muscle for the system are not exempt from the authority of Common Law, and must ultimately make a choice concerning who and what they serve. The moral and propaganda value of publicly posing such a question is inestimable.

On those occasions when this tactic has been tested in Canada and elsewhere, the results have always been the same: the police back off and do not interfere. Time and again, neither the RCMP nor the Vancouver police have interfered with protestors who peacefully occupied Catholic or Protestant churches responsible for the death of Indian children. On one occasion, a senior police sergeant even stated that if the church had committed such crimes and were served with a Court Order, he’d be duty bound to enforce such an Order and help arrest those responsible!

Again, quoting Sun Tzu, to defeat an enemy one must know them; and such knowledge can only be gained through constant contact. “Provoke them to learn their responses. Prick them to test their strength and weakness. Do not outfight them but outthink them.”

Common Law peace officers return power to the people by making them their own police authorities. In so doing, they challenge the very basis of the status quo and its elite-based rule, by undermining those unaccountable “armed bodies of men” who constitute the final and ultimate power of the State.
The Common Law, in short, is a seed of fundamental social and political transformation, not simply a weapon of self-defence for the oppressed.

On Citizens’ Arrests

The right and necessity of citizens to detain suspected or actual criminals has long been recognized under both civil and common law.

For example, as mentioned, under a recent law in Canada, The Citizens’ Arrest and Self Defence Act (2012), the right of citizens to perform arrests and detain suspects on their own has been broadened to include not only people caught endangering the community or harming others, but anyone suspected of crimes, including known offenders.

Under the same common law custom of pro toto posse suo (see above) that empowers any group of adults to unite and stop those causing harm, the right of Citizens’ Arrest is not restricted or negated by a higher authority because of the recognition that any man or woman has the competence and obligation to see and directly halt wrongdoing in their community.

The procedure for performing a Citizens’ Arrest is as follows:

1. One must first either witness a crime, or recognize a suspected criminal or known offender, or even have a reasonable suspicion that such persons pose a danger to others. Such a suspicion must be based on probable cause and not simply a “feeling” or prejudice about someone.

2. One must then inform the suspect or offender that he or she is being placed under Citizens’ Arrest under the right of Necessity to Defend, which obligates the arrester to detain the suspect or offender. The arrester must state who they are and why they are exercising the power of arrest by stating the cause of action.

3. The offender or suspect must then be detained and held for trial in a common law court, if they turn out to have committed a crime or pose a danger to others. The amount of force used in the arrest must be a reasonable response to the suspect’s behavior.

Citizens can normally hand over those they have detained to an authorized Common Law peace officer or a Sheriff of the court. The arresters must be willing to appear in court and give sworn testimony concerning their actions.

The crucial importance of the power of Citizens’ Arrest is that it trains and empowers citizens to take responsibility for policing their communities and for the law itself. It moves democracy from theory to action.

Broader Consequences of the Common Law Court: A World made New

Our first real step towards independence from England was the establishment of our own Republican courts, right under the nose of the Brits. We set up a different legal system of our traditional Brehon laws, even while under military occupation. And we had to defend that system in arms. So you can say that once we started living under our own laws, everything else had to follow, right up to becoming a new nation.
– Joe MacInnes, Republican veteran of the Irish Civil War (1974 interview)

For what you call the Law is but a club of the rich over the lowest of men, sanctifying the conquest of the earth by a few and making their theft the way of things. But over and above these pitiful statutes of yours that enclose the common land and reduce us to poverty to make you fat stands the Law of Creation, which renders judgement on rich and poor alike, making them one. For freedom is the man who will thus turn the world upside down, therefore no wonder he has enemies
– Gerrard Winstanley, The True Levellers’ Standard, Surrey, England, 1649

For the people themselves to sit in judgment of historically “untouchable” rulers like popes and heads of state, and to render an enforceable verdict on their crimes, is a revolutionary act. And such a revolution has begun, with the February 25, 2013 verdict of the International Common Law Court of Justice.

We cannot shrink from or deny the profound consequences of taking such a necessary historic step. Rather, we must recognize that the new judicial system in our hands is in fact a doorway to a transformed world, in which the land and its wealth and society as a whole is reclaimed by all people, and brought into harmony with Natural Justice through a great social levelling.

Many traditions and prophecies foresee such a time as now as a judgment upon the corruption and injustice of the human world. Biblically, such a moment was known as the Jubilee, when all human laws and divisions are abolished, and society, like nature during a fallow year, is allowed to rest from warfare, corruption and injustice.

In truth, we recognize this historic moment not only as a condemnation of what has been, but primarily as a transformation into what is coming to be: a reinventing of humanity according to the simple principle that no law or authority shall ever again cause anyone to rule, harm or dominate others.

The aim of Common Law is to re-establish direct relations of mutual aid among people by placing justice and the law within their reach again. And that devolution of power will simultaneously disestablish all hierarchical institutions of state, business and church which control and mediate human life as a power over people.

A process so profound and revolutionary can only be enacted from the grassroots, by many people who have relearned freedom and use it to take action in their own communities to govern themselves as their own judge, jury and police. On the basis of this good renewed soil, a great harvest will one day arise in the form of new and local Republics of Equals, in harmony with itself and all Creation. The Common Law is a catalyst and a means towards achieving this political and spiritual end.

For now, as we struggle to give birth to the Courts that are like a great plow breaking open the dead soil of the status quo, we must never forget that much of what we have been taught will betray us, for we have been raised as slaves to think and operate under laws that serve the few. Everything must be rethought and retried according to the two great Principles of Natural Law: All things are placed in common for the good of all; and therefore, the law shall cause harm to no-one.

Our principles are firm, but our methods and tactics are supple. We must audaciously try ever new ways to expose, indict and stop the criminal institutions and corporations that are killing our planet, our children and our sacred liberties. And together, we must learn from every mistake and defeat, and generalize the victories and wisdom we gain into clear precedent, throughout this long redemptive struggle that will span many lifetimes.

The conscience born into us is our lamp during this journey and our best instructor, as is our great heritage of Natural Law and Reason, passed down to us so that a free and independent humanity may never perish from the earth.
Armed with this truth, this knowledge and this sacred purpose, go forth and take action! You have a world to win back.
The Law is the public conscience. And the Common Law is but common reason.
– Sir Edward Coke, 1622

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