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Australian Man Banned From Filing Lawsuits After Filing 50 In 10 Years

from the 'sue-defendant'-cooldown-needs-to-be-nerfed dept

How many lawsuits can a person pursue before the legal system decides to cut them off? In Australia, 50 lawsuits gets you eighty-sixed, as one Sydney man found out. (well, I'd say the "hard way," but he genuinely seemed to enjoy availing himself of this particular service.)

[A]fter 50 cases in just 10 years, a science teacher has been banned from taking anyone else to court after Justice Michael Adams ruled he was a vexatious litigant who has used the judicial system to "harass, annoy or achieve another wrongful purpose".

Mr Rahman, a Bangladeshi immigrant, is the 12th person to be put on the State's vexatious litigant register, meaning he cannot start legal proceedings without first seeking the courts' consent.
Rahman isn't completely forbidden from filing lawsuits. He just has to get permission first, something that will likely be very difficult considering his misuse of the court system over the last decade, misuse that includes filing lawsuits to re-litigate already determined decisions. He also sued his own legal team, resulting in him paying them even more than he previously owed.
You'd think Rahman would quit while he's behind (he's in danger of losing his two homes and has spent over a half-million dollars fighting his legal battles), but he's not giving up yet.

A defiant Mr Rahman said: "This is a crime against humanity, I will take them to the International Criminal Court if I have to."
Techdirt reader Jess sent this story in with a note inquiring about Techdirt's take on this -- whether it was a good/bad idea or simply amusing. Here's mine.

My first thought was about patent trolls, some of the most "vexatious" of litigants. However, patent trolls really don't want to end up in court. Most are only in court (and only in East Texas) because their settlement letters failed to result in free money. While some trolls would hit this 50-lawsuit limit quickly, a vast majority wouldn't.

Copyright trolls, on the other hand, are more and more frequently being viewed as "vexatious" by judges handling their mass lawsuits. Again, these trolls only end up in court when the settlement letters fail. Also, they've mostly been allowed to "bundle" their defendants, which makes it even harder for these litigants to hit the 50-suit cutoff. If they were forced to file separately for each Doe, these lawsuits would likely vanish. There's simply not enough of a payoff suing one-to-one.

But, despite all of the above, I can't really see a hard limit on lawsuits being an effective deterrent. Here in the US, this sort of thing would run afoul of protected civil liberties. The system itself can usually work this sort of thing out. Vexatious litigants tend not to stay unknown for very long.

The underlying problem is those stuck at the other end of vexatious lawsuits. Even the most meritless lawsuit costs real money to defend against. Completely uninvolved taxpayers also foot the bill for vexatious legal activity. So, it can be a real problem, but one that an arbitrary cutoff is unlikely to fix without doing corresponding damage to non-vexatious litigants who find themselves tangled in the legal system more frequently than they'd prefer.

And as for the patent/copyright trolls, chances are they'd just create more shell companies to route around any filing limits (although this scheme may be on its way to extinction), which makes this even more likely to just end up hurting non-trolls and non-vexatious litigants. There's no easy fix but the solution probably lies somewhere between the self-regulation performed by judges (who will have a grasp on which litigants are "vexatious") and legislation targeting the activities of professional "vexations litigants." The common man who sues too much falls between these cracks, but it's better to bear the occasional burden than to risk locking those with legitimate lawsuits out of the process.


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  1.  
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    Ferel (profile), Mar 4th, 2014 @ 3:21pm

    from the 'sue-defendant'-cooldown-needs-to-be-nerfed dept

    Lawsuit Trolls: the faceroll class of the World of Lawcraft.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2014 @ 3:23pm

    The common man who sues too much falls between these cracks, but it's better to bear the occasional burden than to risk locking those with legitimate lawsuits out of the process.

    Vexatious litigants are not locked out, they just have to prove that they have a case with merit to a judge. This has the advantage that it protects the targets of suites with no merit from incurring costs, and having to spend time finding and briefing lawyers. If someone keeps bringing suite against a target, even if they lose every time, they are injuring their target in time, lost wages emotional cost of fighting the case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2014 @ 3:41pm

    I'm not sure about other states, but in California the vexatious litigant statute only applies to people who file pro per. The idea is that attorneys should be filtering out improper lawsuits and are subject to sanctions or disciplinary action if they don't. I believe that even a person who has been previously found to be a vexatious litigant can file without any special restrictions so long as they do it through an attorney.

    I don't know if there's any equivalent in federal law, but it seems unlikely to me that any sort of vexatious litigant statute would ever apply to copyright or patent trolls, who pretty consistently seem to have counsel.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2014 @ 5:06pm

    vexatious

    Techdirt's take seems to ignore the fact a vexatious litigant can still sue, they just need to demonstrate to the court that they on the face of evidence they present, they have valid harm that has been caused to them that they need to seek remedy for. The party that is going to be sued still gets their day in court.

    If the rolls are reversed, the vexatious litigant cutoff doesn't count against someone who is sued.

    Years Ago there where horror stories from the US about people being sued, people suing, The stories struck a nerve because many of them seemed unfair. Then some of these corrupt legal strategies started to be used here.

    No-one wanted to waste court time so, there is a system for petty grevences, comprehensive consumer law, Industrial Safety Law, and a sane system for helping road trauma victims.

    The Rich can waste their time suing the rich in court, the courts can protect people of average means from legal predators.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Pixelation, Mar 4th, 2014 @ 5:22pm

    I'm amazed this guy is still breathing. With 50 lawsuits I figure he would have gone after the wrong person by now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Coyne Tibbets (profile), Mar 4th, 2014 @ 5:32pm

    What a disappointment

    How's he ever going to get into Guinness now?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 4th, 2014 @ 7:55pm

    Re: vexatious

    "Techdirt's take seems to ignore the fact a vexatious litigant can still sue, they just need to demonstrate to the court that they on the face of evidence they present, they have valid harm that has been caused to them that they need to seek remedy for. The party that is going to be sued still gets their day in court."

    It's interesting how Techdirt can ignore these things in the very same article that specifically points them out. That takes true talent!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Nicolas (profile), Mar 4th, 2014 @ 8:16pm

    Inequality

    Why should this guy receive greater scrutiny than a law firm would? The world is awash in unjustified lawsuits filed by professionals. Donít penalize, privatize.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2014 @ 9:41pm

    Inequality

    After 50 lawsuits you would think the fellow had started to learn some law, But He decided to Re-litigate decided Matters, to sue his own lawyers. These are not things to be done without proper consideration. Matters a well trained lawyer might not do in haste.

    This guy has wasted His personal wealth on the pipe dream of that big win in court, he has had a fair go at suing others. This action by the courts makes it cheaper for the taxpayer who fund the court system, It frees up court to deal with matters if importance like criminal cases, or AVO's or Inquests.

    And how do you privatize, private sector lawyers, who deal with Litigation?

    Cases where the litigants can now get court time 'cause this vexatious litigant gets booted.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Guy Herbert, Mar 4th, 2014 @ 10:27pm

    "hard limit"?

    You are missing all sorts of basic things about the process. 50 suits is just a contingent number in this case, it isn't a limit. The court won't declare someone a vexatious litigant just for suing a lot. It has to be a person who sues *without legal merit* a lot.

    "Copyright trolls" will not be found to be vexatious litigants merely for aggressive policing of copyrights they control. That's an activity that has legal merit, whether you approve of it or not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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