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Man convicted of bogus liens on judges loses appeal

July 31, 2018

A man who used the sovereign citizen tactic of filing phony liens against multiple Indiana federal judges lost his appeal Monday.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Brent A. Swallers' conviction of filing a false lien and encumbrance against a federal judge. Swallers filed $10 million “common law liens” with the Marion County recorder in 2015 against all of the then-sitting judges of the Indiana Southern District Court, except Judge Richard Young.

Swallers filed the bogus liens after his daughter had been removed from his custody by the Indiana Department of Child Services. Young heard Swallers' case and accepted his guilty plea, in which he received the benefit of the government dropping a related charge of possession of ammunition by a felon.

The 7th Circuit rejected Swallers' claim that Young should have recused himself in USA v. Brent A. Swallers, 17-2568. The panel found Young's recusal was not required.

“Given the circumstances of Swallers's case, Judge Young's relationship with the victims did not pose a significant risk of bias,” Judge Michael Kanne wrote. “All too often, judges find themselves facing fraudulent liens filed against them by disappointed litigants. None of the judges affected by Swallers's fraudulent liens suffered any serious or long-lasting injury. The liens were merely an annoyance, and Judge (Tanya Walton) Pratt expunged them easily… .”

And because Young was not a victim, the panel concluded, “(T)his is not a case in which a well-informed observer would perceive a significant risk that Judge Young would decide the case on a basis rather than its merits.”

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