Pro se (lawyerless) litigants in Connecticut with low income have been allowed to sue without paying the ordinary $350 filing fee, and some have made the most of the situation by filing scads of suits. In May, following publicity about the high cost and hassle imposed on targets, the state adopted a law which “allows judges to review the details of a lawsuit before granting a plaintiff… a waiver from filing fees.” A former courthouse employee who testified in favor of the bill was himself named in a subsequent lawsuit by a litigants whose activities he had mentioned, along with various other defendants including the New London Day and one of its reporters. [WFSB via @SickofLawsuits]
According to research by Yale law professor Donald Elliott, early American civil practice empowered judges to review the details of a lawsuit for adequacy at its outset, and before a target was faced with major costs of response. That practice — dropped later during the purported modernization of our legal system — would come in handy in screening out ill-founded or tactical suits, and not just regarding in forma pauperis (indigent-filed) cases.
A Florida court rejects such an argument in an appeal by a litigant pro se (oh dear, there we go doing it ourselves). [Parris v. Cummins Power South, PDF] (& Greenfield)
An inmate filing pro se gets certiorari, then follows through with a unanimous nine-Justice SCOTUS win, Thomas, J., correcting the Third Circuit. Credit Justice Alito? [Max Kennerly]
Do not ask a question that the adverse witness may answer in a way you will not like (“How did robber sound? ‘He sounded like you’”). [Allentown, Pa. Morning Call]
A college student is suing a stripper-referral service, saying the assigned dancer engaged in an illegal act of prostitution with him but did not stay the full hour as promised. Proceeding pro se without a lawyer, the student “said he now needs medical treatment for a mental condition related to the incident.” When he complained to Las Vegas police about the incident, he says, they threatened to arrest him. He “said he also told the company he was incapable of making an informed agreement with the stripper because he was drunk at the time.” [Las Vegas Sun]
He loses a suit arguing that the bar should have checked patrons for weapons. [Point of Law]
“The founder of ‘The Rent is Too Damn High Party’ is outraged that in 2006, when he ran for governor, and three years later, when he ran for mayor, the board took the world ‘Damn’ off his ballot line.” Officials say it was a matter of lack of space; in the last election they were able to accommodate his imprecation in the ballot heading by shortening the party title to, “Rent is 2 Damn High Party.” He’s representing himself and wants $350 million. [New York Post]
A Florida complainant might wind up digging himself a deeper hole, reputation-wise. [Above the Law]
A Chicago parks supervisor, Mr. Yost reported a man behaving strangely, and wound up facing a decade’s worth of pro se suits that he says have cost him “well in excess of six figures.” [The Provocateur and related documents; CBS2Chicago; more from law firm representing Yost]
California: “Stanley Hilton, 60, of Hillsborough, said in unique court papers that his wife of 13 years divorced him and took their young triplets with her last year because of ‘around-the-clock’ jet noise at SFO. …Hilton last week sued (PDF) SFO, Hillsborough, the counties of San Mateo and San Francisco, dozens of airlines and jet manufacturers, and the real estate agents and couple that sold him his home on Darrell Road for $1.475 million in April 2003.” Hilton, who is representing himself pro se, “is a former civil litigation attorney with a law degree from Duke University and was an active member of the State Bar of California for most of the past three decades, records show. However, the Bar said courts deemed Hilton ineligible to practice law in August.” [San Mateo County Times, SF Chronicle "The Scavenger", Lowering the Bar.]
Because a quadrillion just doesn’t sound like real money any more [Reuters via Lowering the Bar]. “If [complainant Chiscolm] thinks Bank of America has branches on every planet in the cosmos, then it might start to make some sense.”
Courts will often bend over backward to accommodate litigants who file cases without attorney assistance, but in this case the judge lost patience with one who “embarked on a pro se campaign of litigation that has lasted nearly seven years [and] needlessly consumed a large amount of judicial resources”. [NJLJ]
Anyone suing over anything dept.: a Florissant, Mo. man proceeding pro se (without a lawyer) “is suing Apple because he says two of the company’s iPods contained illegal receivers that allowed the Mafia to send him threatening messages, according to court documents obtained by CNET. … The alleged motive for the threats was that the Mafia wanted McKenna to work as a fashion model for them at a New York modeling agency.” The suit also names the St. Louis County police department and other defendants. [CNet, The Petition Site, AppleInsider, Gizmodo]
The new king of the infomercial is Vince Offer, whose abrasive ads for, well, $20 rags and overpriced plastic kitchen gadgets have made him millions and won him an extensive YouTube following.
But Offer thinks he’s an actor/writer/director, though has demonstrated little talent for it; his Underground Comedy Movie, starring such lights as Joey Buttafuoco and Angelyne, got risible reviews.
Of note for this page is that he has had even less success as a litigant. In 1998, Offer brought suit against the Farrelly brothers, implausibly claiming that their hit There’s Something About Mary was plagiarized from his movie. (The Farrelly brothers weren’t impressed: “We’ve never heard of him, we’ve never heard of his movie, and it’s all a bunch of bologna.”) Unfortunately, by bringing the suit under federal copyright law, Offer exposed himself to one of the few two-way fee-shifting statutes out there, and a federal judge had little trouble (literally) rubber-stamping a motion for summary judgment and an order requiring Offer to pay over $66 thousand in attorneys’ fees. (Offer v. Farrelly, Case No. CV 98-7697 RAP(RCx) (C.D. Cal. Jan. 13, 2000); id. (Mar. 14, 2000)).
Offer’s also brought suit against Anna Nicole Smith, and issued a press release threatening to sue The Church of Scientology, but I’m not inclined to spend $4.75 to learn about those cases.
Ex-jailhouse inmate Thomas Goodrich has filed a pro se federal suit against the Delaware Department of Corrections and the former warden of Young Correctional Institute seeking redress for the death of “Freddy,” a valuable parrot. In his complaint, Goodrich alleges that he was held for 12 days on a misdemeanor warrant without being allowed to contact anyone to arrange for Freddy’s feeding. Young seeks damages for the value of the parrot itself, as well as punitive damages against all defendants. It is unknown whether People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will seek to intervene in the suit, but a PETA representative has expressed strong displeasure over Freddy’s death, suggesting that perhaps jail would be appropriate for officials who allegedly caused the bird’s demise.
While it’s always a good idea to view allegations in lawsuits, particularly pro se suits, with skepticism, Goodrich’s complaint does allege a Kafkaesque ordeal over a minor warrant, in which Goodrich was not allowed to use a telephone, or to contact an attorney, or to contact family members to arrange security of $200. Finally, Goodrich alleges, he was able to get in touch with the outside world when after 10 days some friendly person gave him a postage stamp.
Unfortunately, by that time Freddy was an ex-parrot.