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".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.
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.
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.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.
A defiant Mr Rahman said: "This is a crime against humanity, I will take them to the International Criminal Court if I have to."
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.