Vexatious litigation

From Academic Kids

Vexatious litigation is that which is brought, regardless of its merits (usually it has none) solely to harass or subdue an adversary. It may take the form of a primary frivolous lawsuit or may be the repetitive, burdensome and unwarranted filing of meritless motions in a matter which is otherwise a meritorious cause of action. It is an abuse of the judicial process and almost always brings down sanctions on the offender.

Repeated and severe instances by a single lawyer can result in his eventual disbarment.

In some jurisdictions, there is also a list of vexatious litigants, generally people who have repeatedly abused the legal system and who choose to represent themselves rather than employ a lawyer. Those on the list are in general forbidden from any further legal action or require permission from a senior judge to do so. The process by which a person is added to the list varies between jurisdictions.

In English law and legal systems derived from it, a vexatious litigant is someone who is debarred from bringing a case to court because they have previously abused the legal system.

For example, under California law (Code of Civil Procedure, section 391(b)) a vexatious litigant is someone in one of the following categories:

  1. In the immediately preceding seven-year period has commenced, prosecuted, or maintained in propria persona at least five litigations other than in a small claims court that have been (i) finally determined adversely to the person or (ii) unjustifiably permitted to remain pending at least two years without having been brought to trial or hearing.
  2. After a litigation has been finally determined against the person, repeatedly relitigates or attempts to relitigate, in propria persona, either (i) the validity of the determination against the same defendant or defendants as to whom the litigation was finally determined or (ii) the cause of action, claim, controversy, or any of the issues of fact or law, determined or concluded by the final determination against the same defendant or defendants as to whom the litigation was finally determined.
  3. In any litigation while acting in propria persona, repeatedly files unmeritorious motions, pleadings, or other papers, conducts unnecessary discovery, or engages in other tactics that are frivolous or solely intended to cause unnecessary delay.
  4. Has previously been declared to be a vexatious litigant by any state or federal court of record in any action or proceeding based upon the same or substantially similar facts, transaction, or occurrence.

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