Sovereign Citizen Crackpot Theories

Are U.S. Courts Administrative, Not Judicial?

Short link to this article:

Note: The “claim(s)” shown are those attributed to many adherents to a variety of theories, especially those who call themselves sovereign citizens. This blog is one of several used to address specific claims in detail, and the background and organization of my response to the movement begins at this link:

Administrative Courts not Judicial?

Claimed: US Courts are Administrative, Not Judicial Courts

When analyzing the claims of Sovereign Citizens and their companions it’s good to keep their goals in mind. It often simplifies understanding when you know their motivations for raising an issue.

They wish the courts to be administrative as you can’t be tried for a crime in an administrative court, that takes a judicial court.An administrative court cannot enforce a law.

They say it also means that you can’t be a party in court if you don’t agree or haven’t signed a contract, so in effect the courts have no power to compel ‘the Freeman”. Administrative Courts in their view are contractual only.

So you can see they have a powerful tool if they establish that the courts cannot actually enforce laws because they are administrative.

Well, What Says They are Judicial?

The Articles of Confederation did not provide for national courts, except courts to try piracy and other crimes on the seas; and for deciding controversies between the States, a process was established to constitute an ad hoc Court to try such controversy at the petition of one or more states involved.

Please note the Constitution made no change to state courts; except that judges were now bound by the Constitution, treaties, and laws of the U.S. should they conflict with state law or constitutions; and  that all state officials including judges must swear allegiance to the United States.

The claim  that the courts changed in 1787 is arguably true; though the date is not. The Constitution was ratified the next year by the ninth state so it became effective July 1788, though much had to be done to actually create a government. And the 13th state did not ratify until 1790.

They go on to argue that the Courts were no longer judicial after that time, but that’s not so. It was not a change to the fundamental character of courts. Federal Courts existed for the first time in 1788 in theory and in reality in 1789. That’s the real change.

Prior to that all courts were state courts, either using English common law principles; or statutory courts  as created by each State.

No Constitutional Courts existed until the First Congress met and passed the Judiciary Act of 1789 late in the year;  George Washington had to be sworn in before any Laws could  be signed or vetoed; and without a President no judges could be nominated or confirmed. So there were no Federal Courts until almost 1790.

But there is no question about what kind of Courts were created; under the Constitution, Congress is given the power to create courts inferior to the Supreme Court:

The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.
Art III Section 1

It says “judicial power” which inescapably means that the Courts established under this provision are in fact judicial. The name of the law tells it all:

The Judiciary Act of 1789:  1 Stat. 73. September 24, 1789.
Chapter XX: An Act to establish the Judicial Courts of the United States.

And that ought to end the discussion right there.

Torturing the Language

To understand the first argument presented, it is useful to understand that words may mean one thing to you, and indeed to lawyers they may have special meanings; but to Sovereigns words can take on bizarre interpretations to suit their ends.

Sovereigns commonly torture normal English so as to make their discourse unintelligible and to warp meanings to fit their theories.

They speak an odd quasi-legal language and believe that by not capitalizing names and by writing in red and using certain catch phrases they can avoid any liability in our judicial system.
School of Government, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Downloaded 7 Feb 2017)


You can find whole pages of mythical reinterpretations of words and claim that it is not their product but that of the government. Some label this “language” “Legalese.”  For example, if you ask a sovereign “Do you understand me?” he may refuse to answer because he interprets it to means “Do you stand under me” an acknowledgement of your authority. Yes really. And they believe that is what the Court system would mean by those words.

And they will mine centuries old legal and regular dictionaries to find the selective meanings that they can pretend line up with their beliefs.

Since one may not drive without a license they use centuries old definitions of “drive” for example when it applied to teamsters employed to drive a team of horses. From there they conclude that to drive is to be employed as a driver so they don’t need a license at all if not employed. And they will ignore the fact that the words drive is defined within the actual law (“to drive means to operate or be in physical control of a vehicle”) so recourse to outside definitions is invalid.

Similar tactics are used on this topics..

Claimed: Courts which have administrative departments
or make administrative decisions are not judicial;
i.e., Court Administration or Administrative Court?

We must not be too surprised when they confuse Court Administration with Administrative Court.  Easy mixing of the meanings but not really valid. And it produces startling results at times.

It’s like confusing a house cat with a cat house.

They may claim that because an administrative agency (for the Federal Courts, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts) runs the infrastructure of the courts – provides the furniture, courtrooms, telephones, computers; hires the employees and pays them, etc., this is somehow changing or showing the “true nature” of the courts to be administrative bodies.

I will not bother with that silly idea. The Cleaning Service for the hallways does not change the court’s character. Nor does the fact that the courts hires people to keep the IT running. It doesn’t change the nature of what the Court does, which is judicial. And for the Federal Courts the administration is a part of the Judicial Branch.

Claimed/Confused: Administrative Acts?
Or Acts of  Administrative Courts

Likewise, when a court makes an act of its own administration — such as closing a case without making any ruling on the case or law at all; they mentally transform that into the act of an administrative court. Such is their lamentable command of language.

But of course judicial courts make administrative acts all the time without becoming something else. They are administering justice; they deal with non-judicial matters incidental to running a court system. Once again that does nothing to their character as judicial bodies.

I suppose following the same logic I could contend that if one gives an “opinion” one is ruling as a Court.

“In my opinion you suck at parcheesi” would then become the ruling of a court by that logic…transforming the speaker — me — into a court of law?

As an aside you may also find that they regard a document issued by a court and labeled “Opinion” to be of no effect, because it is not, one is told to believe, a “judgment” or “ruling,”

Do not be misled. When a judge issues an opinion it is not like everyone else’ opinion. It has the force of law unless overruled. These word games are all well and good, lawyers can nit pick about words endlessly if it suits their case. But in fact the Courts see their jobs as to preserve law and yet to make real world decisions, to not overlook the reality of the impact of their work on the society and the individuals before them. Opinion is simply a traditional term for a judgment, which includes the reasoning behind that judgment.

It’s more of that absurd torturing of the language and facts but the sovereign community and their fellow travelers are really quite fond of word torture in my experience.

(A nicely tortured example is the claim you are a maritime product because of your mother’s water and her berth/birth canal and the doc/dock who delivered you…and of course your berth certificate…as related in the blog on Admiralty Courts.) 

Considering Some Cases

Two cases have often been cited for the proposition that our Federal courts are administrative bodies not judicial ones.As we will see these cases hold the exact opposite, and conclusively show that the Courts created by Congress (other than for the District of Columbia or possibly for Territories) are judicial.

The cases they cite are from the 20th century for the claim that the courts are actually not judicial but administrative or legislative.

As usual, this is a gross misreading and misrepresents the cases

FRC v. General Electric Co. 281 U.S. 464 (1930)

Keller v. Potomac Elec. Co., 261 U.S. 428 (1923)

These cases simply do not involve Article III courts, they are cases about Courts in and for the District of Columbia and created under this Article II provision of the Constitution,

Congress shall have the power:

“to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States…”
Art II Section 8

The Supreme Court has explained in several rulings, and in Keller v Potomac Electric Co. a case that is claimed to show all courts are not judicial, that Congress is given by this provision the same powers over this small territory as a State would have under the Constitution:

This means that, as to the District, Congress possesses, not only the power which belongs to it in respect of territory within a state, but the power of the state as well. In other words, it possesses a dual authority over the District, and may clothe the courts of the District not only with the jurisdiction and powers of federal courts in the several states, but with such authority as a state may confer on her courts. Kendall v. United States, 12 Pet. 524, 37 U. S. 619.
Keller v. Potomac Elec. Power Co. 261 U.S. 428 (1923)

That alone would dispose of these claims, but in fact if we delve into the cases, the Supreme Court will emphatically establish that it is and the inferior Federal Courts are in fact judicial; so let’s do that.

These cases involve two very different agencies doing very different regulatory tasks, and Congress provided for appeals from their decisions.

In Creating the Federal Radio Commission (now the FCC), Congress included in the law that established it, that its decisions could be appealed to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. This is a Federal agency, and people unhappy with its decisions could appeal to that Court and only that court. And it’s an appeal of an administrative decision, not a new lawsuit. It’s an administrative appeal. And the court is not a national court, it is a District of Columbia Court that was specified.

Likewise, in creating the Public Utilities Commission of the District of Columbia (the gas & electric utility regulator for DC) Congress included provisions in the laws establishing the Commission, explicitly designating that appeals of its decisions could be made to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia  and only there; but after having that Court’s decision appeal could be made to the DC Court of Appeals and thence to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

So in each of these cases, a party to some decision made by one or the other Commission was unsatisfied and appealed the decision to a court, a specific court named in the law that created the body in the first place.And those courts are District of Columbia courts, which are in fact NOT judicial courts.

To illustrate, the FRC case is simple. General Electric asked the FRC (now the FCC) to renew a station license. The FRC refused the renewal and instead proposed to issue a license with different terms much less advantageous to the company. General Electric, following the statute’s provision appealed to the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia. It won. Then the FRC appealed to the US Supreme Court as the next higher court. That was not in the law. But the U.S. Supreme Court is the next up the line for someone in the District, as the FRC was.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that what happened in the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia was not a judicial proceeding, it was an administrative one. SCOTUS pointed to a case that had decided essentially the same issue, a trademark case:

“The decision of the court of appeals under § 9 of the act… is not a judicial judgment. It is a mere administrative decision. It is merely an instruction to the Commissioner of Patents by a court which is made part of the machinery of the Patent Office for administrative purposes.” (Postum Cereal Co. v. California Fig Nut Company, 272 U. S. 693, 272 U. S. 698)

Note carefully what the court said: the court under that law was administrative, not judicial; that Court was created as part of the law creating the issuing of trademarks.  It is not an Article III Court. It is a legislative, Article II Court. And its function was in fact administrative. Once the administrative process is final, then any party can file a case in Federal District Court to establish a judicial case first and after a decision  an appeal from that court could be heard by SCOTUS.

What the Supreme Court decided in those two very specific cases was that the particular initial appeals specified in those laws were made to courts of mixed character, and were administrative hearings, not judicial proceedings; therefore they could not take a further appeal directly to the US Supreme Court  because SCOTUS has no jurisdiction to make administrative decisions; it may only hear “cases” “controversies” as specified in Article III Section 2, which must be among the types of cases listed there. It is in Article III that the notion of “standing” arises, not an issue in state 


So in fact these cases illustrates the fact the Supreme Court and its inferior Art III Courts are in fact judicial. It is the Article II courts that are not.

When a case is filed in Federal District Court is not an “appeal” based on the decision of the agency being wrongly decided; no, it has to be a claim by some party with standing (i.e., who is injured and who is particularly injured beyond the injury to other citizens) that Federal law was broken or a constitutional provision or right was contravened; in other words, a lawsuit; and it is a new and original claim for courts to hear. It may be based on the administration operation of some part of government but it’s not administrative.

The Supreme Court ruled that when hearing an appeal under the specific law authorizing an appeal from an administrative agency, that specific court was acting as a mixed court with legislative and judicial powers which Congress can convey, but only to DC Courts:

Another case in point is Keller v. Potomac Electric Power Co., 261 U. S. 428, 261 U. S. 442, which involved a statutory proceeding in the courts of the District of Columbia to revise an order of a commission fixing the valuation of the property of a public utility for future ratemaking purposes.

There, this [US Supreme] Court held that the function assigned to the courts of the District in the statutory proceeding was not judicial in the sense of the Constitution, but was legislative and advisory, because it was that of instructing and aiding the commission in the exertion of power which was essentially legislative.

In the cases just cited, as also in others, it is recognized that the courts of the District of Columbia are not created under the judiciary article of the Constitution, but are legislative courts, and therefore that Congress may invest them with jurisdiction of appeals and proceedings such as have been just described.
FRC v. General Electric Co. 281 U.S. 464 (1930)

Please note that character of the court rests on the court being a DC court, created by Congress under its Article II power to administer the District. It has no application to U.S. Federal District and Appellate Courts which are Article III courts.

Let us turn now to the second case, Keller v. Potomac Elec. Co., 261 U.S. 428 (1923) whic was cited in the FRC case as well. 

It starts out the same way. The law Congress passed created a Public Utilities Commission for the DC, and provided that appeals of its decisions could be heard in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia and it vested other powers in that court to make decisions changing rulings of the Commission in many ways.

SCOTUS found these powers were ultimately not judicial, but that the Constitution allows the Congress to make a court for the DC only that mixes judicial and legislative powers because for the DC only, Congress has the same power as a state would have. 

However the law also provided:

“Any party, including said Commission, may appeal from the order or decree of said court to the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, and therefrom to the Supreme Court of the United States, which shall thereupon have and take jurisdiction in every such appeal.”

And there the Supreme Court found that Congress exceeded its power because the Supreme Court of the US is an Article III Court that can only exercise judicial power. And this law conferred legislative power to the Court. A law passed under the Article II Sec 8 Clause 17 giving Congress jurisdiction over the District of Columbia is different from one exercising its jurisdiction over the States and their citizens on powers granted under other clauses.

This Court is therefore given jurisdiction to review the entire record, and to make the order or decree which the Commission and the district [of Columbia] courts should have made….Such legislative or administrative jurisdiction, it is well settled, cannot be conferred on this Court either directly or by appeal…

The principle there recognized and enforced on reason and authority is that the jurisdiction of this Court and of the inferior courts of the United States ordained and established by Congress under and by virtue of the third article of the Constitution is limited to cases and controversies in such form that the judicial power is capable of acting on them, and does not extend to an issue of constitutional law framed by Congress for the purpose of invoking the advice of this Court without real parties or a real case, or to administrative or legislative issues or controversies

Far from supporting the idea that all courts are legislative or administrative, SCOTUS ruled that true Article III courts could not act as such courts at all and conclusively characterizes them as JUDICIAL!

This disproves the argument conclusively. Those cases are applicable only to the very few Article II Courts in the District of Columbia.

Rodrigues v. Ray Donavan

Also quoted to show courts are administrative not judicial is Rodrigues v. Ray Donavan case, examined in the Sources of Law blog when it was claimed to support the proposition that all rules and regulations are unconstitutional (and I showed that the case does not support that proposition)

Rodrigues case is cited by the sovereigns as proof that all courts are purely administrative, not judicial, but that is a complete misreading of the case, which revolved around a matter that was the subject of an administrative hearing. The Rodrigues case is an equal protection and due process claim under the Constitution, filed in federal courts as a lawsuit, not an administrative hearing, nor a direct appeal from one.
Rodrigues v. Ray Donavan (U.S. Department of Labor) 769 F. 2d 1344, 1348 (1985)

I have not found any other sources for the claim that the courts are administrative; I am sure someone will eventually cite something and we’ll be off to the races again.

=                                       More Blogs by Philipem 1000                                       =

Sovereign Citizens and Fellow Travelers

Sovereign Citizens and the Jurisdictional Gambit:
You Can’t Touch Me!
Sovereigns inaccurately cite Court Cases,
in their effort to show the courts
have no jurisdiction.

=                                                          The Law                                                          =
Sources Of Law and Authority

Are Statutes Laws?  What About Regulations ?

Strawman Theory and CAPITAL Letters

A collection of court cases
  quoted regularly in response to sovereign citizen
ideas and challenges to the driver license laws.

=                                                  The US and the States                                                =

Do You Need a License to Drive ?

The United States Is A Corporation

(Or If You Prefer, It Can Be An Elephant )

The US Became Bankrupt in 1933 &

Federal Reserve Notes are Not Legal Currency

The United States is still a British Colony

There are Three United States

=                                                 The Courts                                                     =

A Lost 13th Amendment
Removes all Legitimacy from Courts

All US Courts hear only Admiralty Cases

US Courts are Administrative, Not Judicial

All Lawyers take a Secret Oath to Hide ‘The TRUTH


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.