When People Sue and Sue and Sue and Sue … Vexatious Litigants

Image Source: foi-privacy.blogspot.com

Image Source: foi-privacy.blogspot.com

Their lawsuits add strain to already overburdened court systems. Some jurisdictions, like California, maintain a list of vexatious litigants to screen them out for special handling. In addition, lawyers can be disciplined or disbarred for participating in meritless lawsuits, so vexatious litigants often represent themselves in court. Those on the vexatious litigant list are usually either forbidden from any further legal action, or are required to obtain prior permission from a judge or attorney before taking any legal action.


Lawrence Bittaker, who together with his partner Roy Norris, was convicted of torturing and murdering five young women in 1979. He filed 40 separate frivolous lawsuits against the state of California, including one claiming “cruel and unusual punishment” after being served a broken cookie and crushed sandwiches. In 1993, he was declared a vexatious litigant and is forbidden from filing lawsuits without the permission of a lawyer or a judge.

Jonathan Lee Riches, former prisoner who filed over 2,600 lawsuits over the course of six years. His defendants include: Plato, Che Guevara, former President of the United States George W. Bush, Martha Stewart, Plymouth Rock, the Dark Ages, NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, Steve Jobs, Britney Spears, and “the 13 tribes of Israel.” Under 28 U.S. Code § 1915(g), he is barred from proceeding in forma pauperis.

The Church of Scientology. It’s rumored that the Church of Scientology’s lawsuits against newspapers, magazines, government agencies (including the IRS), and individuals have numbered in the thousands. In 1991, Time magazine estimated that the Church spends an average of about $20 million per year on various legal actions, and it is the exclusive client of several law firms. According to a U.S. District Court Memorandum of Decision in 1993, Scientologists “have abused the federal court system by using it, inter alia, to destroy their opponents, rather than to resolve an actual dispute over trademark law or any other legal matter.”

Scientology Building

Image Source: vice.com


In California, a “vexatious litigant” means a person who does any of the following:

(1) brings at least five losing litigations in a seven-year period;

(2) After losing a case, repeatedly relitigates or attempts to relitigate the case, without legal counsel;

(3) While representing themselves, 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.

In California, a vexatious litigant may be required to obtain a bond or face having his or her case dismissed.

Image Source: en.wikipedia.org

Image Source: en.wikipedia.org

What do you think? Do vexatious litigants deserve their day in court? Or are states like California right to maintain a list of vexatious litigants and limit their access to courts?

2 comments on “When People Sue and Sue and Sue and Sue … Vexatious Litigants

  1. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock

    I have recently become the target of a vexatious litigant. A few months back, a vile person made some disgusting and antisemetic comments in response to a Facebook post. As my wife and I are active members in our small, but tightly knit, Jewish community, it was infuriating. Further to this, my wife’s primary job is with a Jewish non profit. I regrettably engaged with the Pro Se litigant. In hindsight, I should have let it go, deleted his comments, and moved on. With full sincerity, I was provoked and acted out of character.

    Fast forward a few days, I received a call from the Vice President of my company regarding a complaint received by the person who left these vile comments. Fast forward another day or so, I was served with lawsuit papers. I had been accused of defaming the pro de litigant. Since then, I have spent countless time, money, and lost hours of sleep due to frivolous motions and responses. Ultimately, the case was dismissed without prejudice due to lack of jurisdiction. Since this decision, the litigant has filed a motion to reconsider, which was heard and denied. He has recently filed an appeal, further requiring financial and emotional investment. My lawyer responded, and rest assured, another motion to respond was filed. It’s simply never ending…

    All of this litigation has occurred in the pro se litigants home state of New Jersey, a state where I lived years ago. I now reside in California. I have lived here for at least 4 years now any have to connection to New Jersey whatsoever, which is why the judge decided on the dismissal on jurisdictional grounds.

    So why am I writing to you? I am 1,000% certain I will soon be pursed here in California. Full disclosure, I am not concerned about losing the case if it made it to trial. I believe firmly that if I countered fir the same reason, fir defamation, I have a stronger case. I simply cannot take time and focus away from work, my wife, and my three children any longer. I just want to be left alone. As this litigant is not a resident of California, he is not on the vexatious litigant list, although he has at least nine lawsuits filed over the last few years. One of which is against the United States of America for allowing “socialists and Muslims” to hold federal jobs. Another was against the irs. Another was against an accountant hired to help in a lawsuit. Several against law clerks and judges, financial institutions, and more. He has even filed numerous sanctions against my attorney simply for defending me.

    The litigant is now in custody after being arrested by the FBI due to threatening a federal judge with threats of violence and murder across state lines. Can you please suggest how I am supposed to protect myself from further abuse? Is there anyone you can suggest I speak with locally? I’d be happy to retain your services, but my wife and I recently had our third child and although we “do well”, we are house poor. I’m exhausted, running out of money, and am now legitimately concerned for the safety of my family given the litigants recent legal troubles. I feel as though we have been held hostage by a psychopath and this will never end. I’m nearing the end of my rope.

    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Susan R on

      I am so sorry you have been forced to deal with this situation. I truly hope this law firm responded to your posting with some help and/or direction for you and your family. It is truly frightening what one single person can do as far as causing havoc, continuous aggravation and even injury or death while our legal system is forced to wait until “someone is hurt, etc.” Prayers for you and your family.


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