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Vexatious litigant

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Overview Edit

Courts have the constitutional obligation and the inherent power to protect against conduct that impairs the court's ability to conduct their functions.[1] Where "vexatious conduct hinders the court from fulfilling its constitutional duty," courts have enjoined individuals from filing without court approval or placed other severe limits on the ability to file new cases.[2]

The injunction must not, however, effectively deny access to the courts, and the district court must give the litigant notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to granting the injunction.[3] The factors to be considered in evaluating whether to issue a pre-filing injunction are: (1) the litigant's history of vexatious litigation; (2) whether the litigant has an objective good faith belief in the merit of the action; (3) whether the litigant is represented by counsel; (4) whether the litigant has caused needless expense or unnecessary burdens on the opposing party and/or the court; and (5) the adequacy of other sanctions.[4] "Ultimately, the question the court must answer is whether a litigant who has a history of vexatious litigation is likely to continue to abuse the judicial process and harass other parties."[5]

References Edit

  1. Tucker v. Seiber, 17 F.3d 1434, 1994 WL 66037 at *1 (4th Cir. 1994) ("A federal court has the power to issue profiling injunctions where vexatious conduct hinders the court from fulfilling its constitutional duty.")(citing Procup v. Strickland, 792 F.2d 1069, 1073 (11th Cir. 1986); Graham v. Riddle, 554 F.2d 133, 135 (4th Cir. 1977)); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b)(2) (Rule 11 provides for sanctions against a party that files frivolous lawsuits lacking cognizable "legal contentions" and the sanctions may be imposed through "directives of a nonmonetary nature").
  2. Tucker, 17 F.3d 1434; see also, e.g., In re Sindram, 498 U.S. 177 (1991) (directing the Clerk not to accept any further petitions for extraordinary writs unless petitioner pays the docketing fee and submits a certificate of compliance with Rule 33); Urban v. United Nations, 768 F.2d 1497, 1500 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (requiring litigants to file with all new pleadings an affidavit certifying the claims are novel); Abdullah v. Gatto, 773 F.2d 487 (2d Cir. 1985) (banning all in forma pauperis filings by a litigant); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a) (a federal judge may take action against a litigant who unduly imposes on the ability of the Court to carry out its Article III functions).
  3. Tucker, 17 F.3d 1434 (citations omitted).
  4. Id. (citing Safir v. United States Lines, Inc., 792 F.2d 19, 24 (2d Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1099 (1987)).
  5. Safir, 792 F.2d at 24.

Source Edit

Whitehead v. Paramount Pictures Corp., 2009 WL 1491402, at *3 (E.D. Va. May 26, 2009).

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