My question requires some context – please bear with me.
In Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged, industrialist Hank Rearden violates the so-called 'fair share' law by doing business with another character. As far as I can tell, that business is consensual and harms no one. But Rearden gets caught and is brought to trial.
When the court asks how he pleads, Rearden responds (p. 476 ff.; full source information below):
“I have no defense.”
He then says that he doesn't recognize the court's right to try him because he doesn't think his action is a crime. The judge then asks him:
“Is it necessary for me to point out that your recognition was not required?”
That's what Rearden wants to expose. His response:
“No. I am fully aware of it and I am acting accordingly.”
He expands on why he doesn't recognize the court's right to try him – it's because the court is not referring to objective principles of justice:
“A prisoner brought to trial can defend himself only if there is an objective principle of justice recognized by his judges, a principle upholding his rights, which they may not violate and which he can invoke. The law, by which you are trying me, holds that there are no principles, that I have no rights and that you may do with me whatever you please. Very well. Do it.”
The judge is befuddled, explaining a bit later on that the law requires Rearden to submit a plea. Rearden's response:
“Do you mean that you need my help to make this procedure legal?”
“Well, no . . . yes . . . that is, to complete the form.”
“I will not help you.”
Rearden's goal is "to let the nature of this procedure appear exactly for what it is." And: "I will not help you to preserve an appearance of rationality by entering a debate in which a gun is the final argument. I will not help you to pretend that you are administering justice."
When the court responds, the self-contradictory nature of its proceedings becomes evident:
“But the law compels you to volunteer a defense!”
Rearden explains once more that he does not cooperate at the point of a gun. The court, having been exposed, gets self-conscious because it doesn't want to be seen as a violent institution. It lets him off with a slap on the wrist.
In other words, Rearden defends himself by pointing out the court's violent nature. I'm not an expert on objectivism, but I believe the core concept that is being invoked here is that of the sanction of the victim. Unjust laws rely on this sanction to work, and so not giving one's sanction renders them impotent. The 'fair share' law for which Rearden is being tried is one such unjust law.
Has this defense ever been tried in real life? My guess is it would be laughed out of court. The closest I have seen is a clip of a so-called 'sovereign citizen' who was on trial, stating, like Rearden, that he doesn't recognize the court's right to try him. However, I don't think he referenced the concept of the sanction of the victim so it's not the same – either way, the judge didn't care and was merely annoyed, not self-conscious or in any way worried about being 'exposed'. If force was required, the judge seemed happy to administer it.
I do think our society has unjust laws. We can disagree about what those are, but you probably agree that some unjust laws exist. The question is whether a defense like Rearden's has been tried and whether it works. If it doesn't, as I suspect it wouldn't, it would mean that Rand is wrong in her characterization of the American court system.
PS: If this question is better suited for the law stack exchange, I'll be happy to move it there.
(The full source generated by my Kindle desktop app is "Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.")