Sovereign citizens, querulant litigants and high-conflict behaviours.

Montage from the Sovereign Citizens event
On Friday 1 March 2024, the Judicial College delivered the inaugural event ‘Sovereign citizens, querulant litigants and high-conflict behaviours.'

The full-day, cross-jurisdictional event welcomed more than 50 attendees and proved to be one of the most in-demand events the College has held in the last 12 months, highlighting that high-conflict self-represented litigants are becoming a daily challenge for judicial officers in our courts.

Judge Gerard Mullaly, Head of the Criminal Division of the County Court of Victoria, provided opening comments for the event, followed by County Court of Victoria Chief Judge Peter Kidd who spoke on the law in relation to sovereign citizens and finding the balance between effective courtroom management and the requirements of procedural fairness.

Keynote speakers Distinguished Professor of Forensic Behavioural Science and School of Health Sciences Dean James Ogloff AM (Swinburne University of Technology) and Adjunct Professor of Forensic Psychiatry Professor Michele Pathé (Swinburne University of Technology) shared their expertise about the characteristics and motivations of challenging self-represented litigants and practical strategies to prevent escalation in the courtroom.

County Court of Victoria Judicial Registrar Belinda Bales, Magistrates’ Court of Victoria Judicial Registrar Kristie Eales and Magistrates Peter Mellas and Julie Granger explored the nuances across different jurisdictions when dealing with challenging self-represented litigants and shared their experiences and insights in Q&A sessions.

The College extends its sincere thanks to all those who participated in this event. Here are some highlights of the feedback received:

'This was the best education event I've attended. The information presented was thorough, informative, practical and useful.'

'The structure of the session achieved a great balance between theory and practice.'

'Excellent day … really topical and provided an excellent forum for open discussions and the exchange of knowledge, practical tips and lots of take-home messages.'