State legislatures grappling with filing of false liens on judges and court staff

The 1990s saw a series of efforts by disgruntled litigants using so-called “common law courts” to file liens with county recorders on the property of judges and court staff. At the federal level, the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007 expanded penalties for retaliating against a federal judge or clerk/staff by false claim or slander of title (18 USC 1521).

In recent years, many of the same practices launched against state judges and court staff in the 90s have returned with new vigor. As a result, several state legislatures have sought to enact prohibitions on such practices or enhance their existing provisions.

Alabama HB 17 / SB 64 / SB 225 Creates crime of offering a false instrument for recording against a public servant. Allows a public servant to request to remove a false instrument that has been filed against the public servant to be removed to circuit court and be expedited.

Alabama HB 99 Creates several new crimes with respect to sham legal processes against public servants, including judges and court staff. Creates crimes of:

  • impersonating a state or local official or employee or a law enforcement officer in connection with sham legal process
  • falsely asserting authority of state law in connection with sham legal process
  • acting, without authority, as a judge, magistrate, hearing officer, juror, clerk of court, or any other official with the authority to adjudicate the rights or interests of another, or to sign a document in this capacity as if authorized by state law
  • falsely asserting authority of law in an attempt to intimidate or hinder a state or local official or employee or a law enforcement officer in the discharge of official duties by means of threats, harassment, physical abuse, or the use of sham legal process.

Georgia HB 997 Provides for the new crime of false lien statements against public officers, including all judges, or public employees, including every person employed by the judicial branch. (Hearing 2/22/12)

Indiana SB 382 Makes it a Class D felony for a person to file a false lien or a false encumbrance against a public servant’s real or personal property.

Nebraska LB 982 Changes the powers of the Secretary of State regarding the removal of fraudulent (or believed to be fraudulent) financing statements. Allows those affected by a fraudulent statement to recover damages from the person responsible for the fraudulent statement. Expands definition of a fraudulent statement.

Pennsylvania SB 50 Creates crimes of simulated legal process, impersonating public official or legal tribunal, and hindering public official related to filing of false liens and similar items against judges and others.