United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
STADTMUELLER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE >
Leon Williams El (“Williams El”) filed four civil
actions in this Court from February to April 2018. His
filings in each of the cases border on being
incomprehensible, but the Court has done its best to make
sense of them. The first two were filed near in time in late
February and early March 2018, and they seem to concern a
traffic ticket Williams El received in Sheboygan. No.
18-CV-293, (Docket #1); No. 18-CV-328, (Docket #1). The other
two cases were both filed on April 17, 2018, and they concern
an adjudication of Williams El's parental rights and
child support obligations in Sheboygan County Circuit Court.
No. 18-CV-602, (Docket #1); No. 18-CV-603, (Docket #1).
the Court addresses the first two cases together, and then
the second two cases together.
TRAFFIC TICKET CASES
of these cases, Williams El has sought leave to proceed
in forma pauperis. Notwithstanding the payment of
any filing fee, the Court must dismiss a complaint filed
in forma pauperis if it raises claims that are
“frivolous or malicious, ” that fail to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). A claim is legally frivolous
when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.
Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992);
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989);
Hutchinson ex rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d 895, 900
(7th Cir. 1997). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as
frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless
legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly
baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.
“Malicious, ” although sometimes treated as a
synonym for “frivolous, ” “is more usefully
construed as intended to harass.” Lindell v.
McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109-10 (7th Cir. 2003)
state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading
system, the plaintiff is required to provide a “short
and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is
entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It is not
necessary for the plaintiff to plead specific facts and his
statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of
what the…claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S.
41, 47 (1957)). However, a complaint that offers
“labels and conclusions” or “formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To state
a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, “that is plausible on its
face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint allegations
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should
follow the principles set forth in Twombly by first,
“identifying pleadings that, because they are no more
than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal
conclusions must be supported by factual allegations.
Id. If there are well-pleaded factual allegations,
the court must, second, “assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.” Id.
state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
plaintiff must allege that: 1) he was deprived of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and
2) the deprivation was visited upon him by a person or
persons acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore
v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir.
2009) (citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. Fond du Lac, 384
F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v.
Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The court is obliged
to give the plaintiff's pro se allegations,
“however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal
construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
first case, Williams El sues various defendants for issuing
him a citation for operating a motor vehicle without a valid
license or registration. No. 18-CV-293, (Docket #1 at 2-3).
This occurred in January 2018. He says this was wrong because
he is “a sovereign man” who “did not fall
under [their] jurisdiction.” Id. His complaint
incoherently discusses financing statements, the Uniform
Commercial Code, and a treaty with the “Morroccon
Empire.” Id. His vehicle was impounded and the
defendants would not return it to him; it appears they were
unmoved by his claim that he was outside of their
jurisdiction. Id. at 3. Williams El demands twelve
million dollars and seeks recognition “as the
indigenous man that I am.” Id. at 4.
second case appears to be an extension of the first. Williams
El appeared in the Sheboygan County Courthouse on February
26, 2018. No. 18-CV-328, (Docket #1 at 2). He does not say
why, but a review of Wisconsin's publicly available court
docket reveals that he was criminally prosecuted for the
above-mentioned citation; it was his third such citation
within three years. See State of Wisconsin v. Torrance L.
Williams, Sheboygan County Circuit Court, Case No.
2018-CT-67, available at:
https://wcca.wicourts.gov/. Williams El says that he tried to
interrupt court proceedings to discuss his
“estate” and being a “debtor, ” but
was not allowed to do so. No. 18-CV-328, (Docket #1 at 2-3).
Eventually his case was taken up, and Williams El offered
similar ramblings about financing statements, his
“estate, ” copyright violations, and the alleged
lack of jurisdiction. Id. at 3. He was ordered to
appear at a later hearing. Id. It is not clear what
happened afterward; Williams El does not describe it well,
and the public docket ends on February 26. In this case,
Williams El requests five-hundred and nine million dollars,
as well as being recognized as an “indigenous”
person. Id. at 4.
cases are frivolous. Williams El's primary assertion in
each is that the Sheboygan County executive and judicial
branches of government lack jurisdiction over him because he
is a “sovereign” or “indigenous”
person. This theory of avoiding governmental oversight of
one's life, known as the “sovereign citizen”
movement, is not unique to him:
As explained by the FBI, “Sovereign citizens view the
USG [U.S. government] as bankrupt and without tangible
assets; therefore, the USG is believed to use citizens to
back U.S. currency. Sovereign citizens believe the USG
operates solely on a credit system using American citizens as
collateral. Sovereign citizens exploit this belief by filing
fraudulent financial documents charging their debt to the
Treasury Department.” Federal Bureau of Investigation,
“Sovereign Citizens: An Introduction for Law
Enforcement” 3 (Nov. 2010), http://info.public
intelligence.net/FBI- SovereignCitizens.pdf (visited March 6,
El v. AmeriCredit Fin. Servs., Inc., 710 F.3d 748,
750 (7th Cir. 2013). Sovereign citizens like Williams El
often file UCC financing statements for themselves as a
person, believing that this grants them immunity from the
jurisdiction of government authorities. Gravatt v. United
States, 100 Fed.Cl. 279, 282-83 (Ct. Fed.Cl. 2011).
Those sovereign citizens of African descent often hold an
additional belief that they are descendants of the Moors of
North Africa, and are part of the Moorish or Moroccan Empire
(which does not exist), thus further insulating them from the
United States' jurisdiction. Bey v. State of
Ind., 847 F.3d 559 (7th Cir. 2017).
belief, sincerely held or not, is not a valid basis for
avoiding state or federal jurisdiction. Charlotte v.
Hansen, 433 Fed.Appx. 660, 661 (10th Cir. 2011) (in
addressing a sovereign citizen's civil suit filed against
a county judge regarding a traffic violation, the court noted
that “an individual's belief that her status as a
‘sovereign citizen' puts her beyond the
jurisdiction of the courts ‘has no conceivable validity
in American law.'” (quoting United States v.
Schneider, 910 F.2d 1569, 1570 (7th Cir. 1990)).
Williams El admits that he was in Sheboygan when he was
cited, thus placing himself under the jurisdiction of its
police department and courts. His nonsensical references to
financial documents, estates, and the Moroccan Empire cannot
change that fact. Further, the other purported claims
presented in each case, such as copyright violations,
violations of “sovereignty, ” violations of
constitutional rights, violations of the “rights of