Borders/Trim on US flag-Change in Jurisdicition?

I read a tax-avoidance book many years ago that said that a gold border around a flag is a sign that one is under Navy (?) jusrisdiction, hence, a court with one of these flags is not bound by the US Constitution, and that is why we have so many blatantly unconstitutional rulings in many courts. Said book said that the SCOTUS ruled that, since the whole point of a flag is to make an open declaration of intent, one that does not protest it in a legal proceeding is affirming consent to being judged with maritime rules and there is no basis for appeal in US courts.

Fast forward to c. 2000, MOL. Since it was a tax-avoidance group, naturally the courts gave them short shrift when this issue came up when a protester made some ruckus about it. Court held that these people were just being jerks, and did not go along with the groups assertion.
My questions:

  1. Was there ever any SCOTUS decision affirming that a flag with a certain border could determine the processes of a court?
  2. If so, does the subsequent ruling invalidate the previous one, or does it just leave the tax-avoidance people holding the bag, while everybody else goes on being adjudicated with maritime rules?


Total BS. The border on a flag means nothing, legally. Navy courts operate under the UCMJ, and don’t try civilian cases like tax avoidance, etc. Just more nonsense spouted off by nutballs who don’t like the system.

Here’s a site that directly address the issue.

The gold trim is found on ceremonial flags, to be used indoors and for ceremonies only. They originally were used on military flags. The fringe has no specific significance, but is considered completely within the guidelines of proper flag etiquette. There is nothing in the flag code indicating that the fringe is for federal government flags only. The Internet contains many sites that claim that the fringe indicates martial law or that the Constitution does not apply in that area. These are entirely unfounded (usually citing Executive Order 10834 and inventing text that is not part of the order) and should be dismissed as urban legends.

As noted above. However, the germ of truth that is always present in far-fetched stuff like this is, oceangoing ships are bound by Admiralty Law, a separate body of law from civil and criminal with its own procedural oddities (for example, a greatly expanded in rem jurisdiction, where 12 shipping crates of contraband can be sued – not their putative owner but the material itself). Because Admiralty Law is not the same as U.S. civil law, this myth has gained some currency. But Admiralty Law is administered by the federal courts and does fall under the same constitutional requirements as anything else; it’s merely that its procedures are different.

Thank you one and all for your fine input!

Harry, whenever you hear one of these legal arguments about how Federal courts are illegitimate or the IRS code only applies to DC residents or whatever, I suggest you go over to Bernard Sussman’s exhaustive list of Idiot Legal Arguments.

In particular he lists almost 40 decisions from virtually every level and form of Federal and State courts that invalidate this claim. A number of these decisions, in fact, ruled that any claim based on the fringe of a flag are frivolous and subject to penalties. For instance:

As a good rule of thumb, always assume that any argument brought up by a tax protester is utter crap.

Although it doesn’t mention this particular variation, a good place to start sifting through their nonsense is The Tax Protester FAQ.

Good websites. I particularly like Judge Easterbrook’s comment on the first one, “Some people will believe with great fervor preposterous things that just happen to coincide with their self-interest.” Coleman v. CIR (7th Cir. 1986), 791 F2d 68, 69. Too true.

We see some tax protestor/sovereign citizen/militia-style filings from time to time in my court. I have some boilerplate language blowing them out of the water, as they richly deserve.

So the only people who believe this are “fringe” groups?

Pretty much. Mainly right-wing groups and tax-avoidance groups (there is understandably a lot of overlap) There was an episode of Law & Order a few years (7 or 8) back that featured a group of right wing nuts arrested on robbery and firearms charges. They tried to claim that the flag in the courtroom made it an Admiralty/martial law court, and as such, they (the defendants) were not under its jurisdiction.

The judge’s response was the legalese equivalent of “'Fraid so!”.

CynicalGabe, your hair looks ruffled, because you just got whooshed.

(Get it? Fringe groups. Hahahah.)

I just have to say I love this website, and I want it to get as much publicity in this thread as possible. :slight_smile:

A lot of the arguments he debunks provide a very interesting insight into the kind of bizarre, pseudo-legalistic thought processes of the kinds of people who think up these scams. It’s as if Lewis Carroll were thinking them up: Even though they completely lack (intentional) humor, they display the same perverse pseudologic and apparent self-consistency that melts away under actual thought.

[Sarcasm]Absolutely true, if tried in a court that has a gold fringed flag, all you have to do is loudly state “I do not recognize the authority of the admiralty flag.” and the judges and prosecuters have to immediately release you.[/Sarcasm]

It’s kind of like garlic for vampires or a silver bullet for werewolves, magic for our time.

Another interesting tidbit that shoots (at least for most thinking people; i.e., not those fringe groups) down the argument is that US Navy courts-martial are bound by the US Constitution.

Exactly. Many of these arguments are “magic words” arguments. If you know the exact words to say, the verbal equivalent of the secret handshake used by the Masons or whatever, you get the get out of jail free card no matter what else is going on. All judges are given these verbal codes when they take the bench and they swear a mighty oath never to divulge them to the masses. How this can still work when the secret phrase is uttered in public court proceedings is never considered.

It the Conspiracy Theory theory of government run riot.

Yeah, the thing that I can’t understand is how the tax protesters believe on the one hand that the current federal government is some usurping tyrannical dictatorship, and on the other hand, that all they have to do is point this out and the agents of the tyrannical dictatorship will just leave them alone.

If the US were a tyrannical dictatorship, the cops and judges wouldn’t care about what the law actually said and would throw you in jail and steal your money and kill you just for fun. You think that when Saddam’s thugs arrested people all they had to do was refuse to recognize the authority of the illegal Saddam regime and the thugs would let them go? Oh, the execution warrant for this traitor wasn’t properly notarized according to section 27(j) of the execution code? Well, I guess we’re gonna have let him go, boys. Nothing we can do. I know that normally we just drag people out and shoot them in the back of the head and dump them in the mass grave, but this guy knows about section 27(j). Our hands are tied!

/combs hair down.
Bloody hell.

If it hasn’t already been done, there’s probably a PhD thesis in the comparison of tax-protester literature and “clever boy tricks the Devil” folklore.

Judge Baliff, remove that symbol of extralegal government from this courtroom at once!

To defendant Happy now?