United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
T. TREADWELL, JUDGE
Jermaine Perkinson has filed a pleading that has been
docketed as a petition for federal writ of mandamus pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1651. Petitioner has also filed a motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this
action (ECF No. 2). For the following reasons,
Petitioner's Petition is DISMISSED without
prejudice and his motion for leave to proceed in
forma pauperis is GRANTED for purposes
of this dismissal only.
Standard of Review
accordance with the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”), the district courts are obligated to
conduct a preliminary screening of every complaint filed by a
prisoner who seeks redress from a government entity,
official, or employee. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(a). Screening is also required under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e) when the prisoner is proceeding IFP. Both statutes
apply in this case, and the standard of review is the same.
When conducting preliminary screening, the Court must accept
all factual allegations as true. Boxer X v. Harris,
437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006); Hughes v.
Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1159-60 (11th Cir. 2003). Pro
se pleadings, like the one in this case, are “held
to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by
attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed.”
Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Still, the
Court must dismiss a prisoner's pleading if it “(1)
is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C.
is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in
law or in fact.” Miller v. Donald, 541 F.3d
1091, 1100 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks
omitted). The Court may dismiss claims that are based on
“indisputably meritless legal” theories and
“claims whose factual contentions are clearly
baseless.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). A pleading fails to state a claim if it does not
include “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true,
to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The factual allegations “must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level” and cannot “merely create a suspicion
[of] a legally cognizable right of action.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (first alteration in
original). In other words, the pleading must allege
enough facts “to raise a reasonable expectation that
discovery will reveal evidence” supporting a claim.
Id. at 556. “Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
Factual Allegations and Petitioner's Claims
best as the Court can tell, Petitioner challenges his current
incarceration by claiming that because he is a “private
person” who was “never in a lawful, binding
contract” with the state or any other form of
government, the state courts do not have jurisdiction to hold
him accountable for violating the laws of the state.
See Pet. 1-4, ECF No. 1. Petitioner thus seeks a
writ of mandamus from this Court that would require state
prison officials to release him and potentially to pay
significant damages. See Id. at 5-6.
Petitioner's Petition is subject to dismissal for at
least two reasons.
this Court does not have the authority to grant the relief
Petitioner appears to seek. Federal courts lack the power to
issue writs compelling action by state officials in the
performance of their duties. See Moye v. Clerk, Dekalb
Cnty. Superior Court, 474 F.2d 1275, 1276 (5th Cir.
1973). In addition, to the extent Petitioner
seeks release from prison, habeas corpus-not a petition for
mandamus-“is the exclusive remedy for a state prisoner
who challenges the fact or duration of his confinement and
seeks immediate or speedier release[.]” Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 481 (1994).
Petitioner's substantive submissions to the Court are
frivolous. Petitioner's filings “bear all the
hallmarks of the ‘sovereign citizen' theory that
has been consistently rejected by the federal courts as an
utterly frivolous attempt to avoid the statutes, rules, and
regulations that apply to all litigants, regardless
of how they portray themselves.” Mells v.
Loncon, No. CV 418-296, 2019 WL 1339618, at *2 (S.D. Ga.
Feb. 27, 2019) (emphasis in original). A so-called
“sovereign citizen” generally relies “on
the Uniform Commercial Code (‘UCC'), admiralty
laws, and other commercial statutes to argue that, because he
has made no contract with [the court or government], neither
entity can foist any agreement upon him.” See
United States v. Perkins, No. 1:10-cr-97-1, 2013 WL
3820716, at *1 (N.D.Ga. July 23, 2013) aff'd,
787 F.3d 1329 (11th Cir. 2015). Criminal statutes are
“apparently not one of the groups of statutes whose
validity [these ‘sovereign citizens'] will
acknowledge, ” and as such the prisoner will argue that
he cannot be found guilty of any crime. See id.
Petitioner's filings also bear at least some indicia of
his reliance on the “Redemptionist” theory, which
“propounds that a person has a split personality: a
real person and a fictional person called the
‘strawman.'” Monroe v. Beard, 536
F.3d 198, 203 n.4 (3d Cir. 2009).
Redemptionists claim that government has power only over the
strawman and not over the live person, who remains free.
Individuals can free themselves by filing UCC filing
statements, thereby acquiring an interest in their strawman.
Thereafter, the real person can demand that government
officials pay enormous sums of money to use the
strawman's name or, in the case of prisoners, to keep him
the “sovereign citizen” and
“Redemptionist” theories are frivolous legal
theories that have been consistently rejected by federal
courts. See, e.g., Trevino v. Florida, 687 Fed.Appx.
861, 862 (11th Cir. 2017) (per curiam) (finding
plaintiff's sovereign citizen arguments frivolous and
“clearly baseless”); Linge v. State of
Georgia Inc., 569 Fed.Appx. 895, 896 (11th Cir. 2014)
(finding the sovereign citizen argument to be to
“wholly insubstantial and frivolous”); United
States v. Hilgeford, 7 F.3d 1340, 1342 (7th Cir.1993)
(rejecting sovereign citizen argument as “shop
worn” and frivolous); Muhammad v. Smith, No.
3:13-cv-760 (MAD/DEP), 2014 WL 3670609, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. July
23, 2014) (collecting cases and noting that “[t]heories
presented by redemptionist and sovereign citizen adherents
have not only been rejected by courts, but also recognized as
frivolous and a waste of court resources”). Thus,
Petitioner's Petition should be dismissed as both
frivolous and for failing to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted.