Mr. Wemple’s various lawsuits have named as defendants all Illinois judicial circuits as well as, more recently, “the Illinois State Bar Association and all of its members,” for conscripting him into a legal process that is “defective and unsafe for its intended purpose in that it generates degeneration financially, psychologically and/or physically.” One of his filings charged the state bar association with “treason” of sundry varieties, not a well-formed complaint since “treason is a criminal offense, not a basis for a civil lawsuit.” A no-longer-patient judge has ordered him added “to the list of ‘restricted filers’ (sometimes called ‘vexatious litigants’) who typically must seek leave before filing anything (and pay fees up front) because of this sort of history.” [Lowering the Bar]
The Indiana high court didn’t sanction an Indianapolis man who has sued several judges as well as many commercial defendants “but warned him that he could face fines and criminal charges if he files new lawsuits” and provided guidance aimed at strengthening the hand of judges “confronted with abusive and vexatious litigation practices” [ABA Journal, Indianapolis Star and more]
Many organizations and individuals have now filed amicus briefs in the case filed by climate scientist Michael Mann against bloggers, journalists and a think tank (the Competitive Enterprise Institute) that had published or linked to hostile commentary about him. Among them is a brief filed on behalf of the Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, Individual Rights Foundation, and Goldwater Institute whose point, as Ilya Shapiro explains, is to “urge the court to stay out of the business of refereeing scientific debates.” Among filers of other briefs just entered: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 26 other organizations, online publishers and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and defendant/commentator Mark Steyn. Earlier here, etc. More: Alison Frankel, Reuters.
Unrelatedly, a Maryland judge has ruled in favor of a large group of defendant-bloggers and entered a directed verdict against Brett Kimberlin’s defamation suit; claims he has filed in federal court remain unresolved. Reporter Dave Weigel was there, and tweeted: “Kimberlin says the bloggers will face ‘endless lawsuits for the rest of their lives.'” [Legal Insurrection, Ken White, Popehat; recent background on federal-court side of case from Paul Alan Levy and more, earlier] (Updated to clarify which of the matters Levy was writing about). More: Weigel in the Daily Beast.
Upland, Calif.: “A California family is stumped about what to do with a live-in nanny they say refuses to work, refuses to be fired and refuses to leave. In fact, Marcella Bracamonte claims that the nanny, Diane Stretton, has threatened to sue the family for wrongful firing and elder abuse.” Stretton’s hiring agreement with the Bracamontes entitles her to room and board as part of her compensation, but she now indicates that she is suffering a disability and stays mostly in her room, the couple says. After the dispute arose the Bracamontes discovered that Stretton is on the state vexatious-litigants list and has been involved in at least 36 lawsuits; police say because Stretton is in residence it is a civil matter, but a judge threw out the couple’s initial eviction attempt, saying they had not filled out a quit notice correctly. [ABC News, auto-plays video ad; CBS Los Angeles] In September of last year, whether coincidentally or not, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the so-called California Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, affording domestic workers substantially more legal leverage in disputes with their employers. [SCPR] (& Scott Greenfield, with commenters)
- Court slaps “nightmare” Sacramento litigant Raj Singh with sanctions [KXTV, auto-plays, earlier]
- Child overprotection: “I don’t think they even drink liquid soap, the gateway drug for sunscreen.” [Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range Kids]
- Three-fer: personal injury, qui tam lawsuits against guardrail maker coordinated by disappointed patent litigant [Insurance Journal]
- Donald Trump hit with sanctions in lawsuit for not disclosing insurance policy [South Florida Business Journal, our Trump coverage]
- On AirBnB and sharing services, it’s lefty economist Dean Baker (con) vs. David Henderson (pro). Go David! [EconLib] London black cabs seek level playing field with Uber. Good idea, let’s deregulate ‘em both [Matthew Feeney, Cato]
- Waffle House chairman claims attorneys committed extortion in ex-housekeeper’s sex lawsuit [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
- “Tenth Circuit Says No to ‘Death by Discovery’ in Dispute over Agreement to Arbitrate in Class Action” [Lars Fuller, Class Action Blawg on Howard v. Ferrellgas Partners LP]
The defendant in the Duluth doctor-rating defamation case that we recounted here and here “told the Star Tribune he spent the equivalent of two years’ income, some of which he had to borrow from relatives who supplied the money by raiding their retirement funds.” The Minnesota Supreme Court eventually ruled that his comments were protected opinion. The doctor/plaintiff, for his part, spent $60,000 pursuing the suit. [Twin Cities Business]
The same article, a “Lawsuits of the Year 2013″ feature, also recounts how a couple under the influence of “sovereign citizen” teachings “filed more than $250 billion in liens, and other claims, against those they considered the cause of their problems, including [Hennepin County Sheriff Rich] Stanek, county attorneys and other court officials. The liens were filed against vehicles, houses and even mineral rights.” When Stanek went to refinance his property, he discovered he had been hit with $25 million in liens which took “several years” to remove entirely. The husband of the couple was sent to prison.
A big source of frivolous litigation these days, the “sovereign citizen” cult originated on the political right but has now spread more widely [Lorelei Laird, ABA Journal]:
When involved in any legal matter, from pet licensing to serious criminal charges, sovereigns are known for filing legal-sounding gibberish, usually pro se, learned from other sovereigns who sell lessons in “law” online. Frequently, they cite the Uniform Commercial Code, maritime law and the Bible.
They’re also known for the sheer volume of their filings, which can double the size of a normal docket. …
Some sovereigns hold trials in their own “common-law courts,” convicting public officials in absentia and sentencing them to death for “treason.” …Sovereigns sometimes say they are subject only to “God’s law” or to “common law,” meaning the U.S. legal system as they believe it existed before the conspiracy. They may declare themselves independent nations, join fictional American Indian tribes or attempt to create a replacement government within the sovereign community.
Don’t assume that public officials and public employees are the only ones swept in:
The Atta family locked up their Temecula, Calif., home and went on vacation in 2012. While they were gone, Victor Cheng moved in.
Cheng had owned the home before the Attas, but he lost it in foreclosure. Nonetheless, he filed a fraudulent deed with the county recorder’s office, transferred the utilities into his name and even tried to evict the Attas after their return. During his prosecution for burglary, trespassing and filing a false document, he insisted that he was not the person being prosecuted because the indictment spelled his name in all capital letters.
Full story here.
Getting placed on the vexatious-litigants list might not actually slow you down all that much in the pace of your suit-filing. A frequent Sacramento litigant has been on the list since 2003 but nonetheless obtains fee waivers by pleading poverty even as property is held in trust or in his wife’s name, uses variations of his name that throw adversaries off the track, and, according to an opponent, gets around a ban on pro se filing by using a lawyer to file and then substituting himself as counsel. [KXTV (auto-plays), ABA Journal]
Meet the lawyer who sued the Fort Lauderdale Bridge Club in a dispute over its having ended his membership. The club proceeded to declare bankruptcy under his courtroom onslaught: “Since then there have been more than 600 docket entries in the bankruptcy case as Rosen pursued numerous motions and litigation.” [Joe Patrice/Above the Law, Daily Business Report]