Gov. Brewer Signs Bill Prohibiting the Vexatious Litigant.
In a move to eliminate the repeat and abusive pro se litigant (vexatious litigant) from bringing constant CIVIL lawsuits, the Governor signed H.B. 2021. The new law will provide certain criteria for determining if an individual pro se litigant is a vexatious litigant and prohibits vexatious litigants from taking certain action without leave of Court.
The statute is a by produce of the Ninth Circuit’s 1990 holding in De Long v Hennessey, in which the Court found four principles for courts to follow when placing the vexatious litigant label on a pro se litigant:
- To satisfy due process, the litigant must be afforded notice and an opportunity to oppose the order;
- the court must create an adequate record for appellate review that includes a listing of all cases and motions leading the court to enter the order;
- the court must make substantive findings as to the frivolous or harassing nature of the litigant’s actions; and
- the order must be narrowly tailored to closely fit the specific vice encountered.
The new statute will allowing either the court or the opposing party request the court deem a pro se litigant as a vexatious litigant. If a court deems a party a vexatious litigant, that party will have to obtain court permission to file any new pleading or motion. The statute will define a vexatious conduct as:
- repeated filing of court actions solely or primarily for the purpose of harassment; or
- unreasonably expanding or delaying court proceedings; or
- filing or defending court actions without substantial justification; or
- engaging in abuse of discovery or conduct in discovery that has resulted in the imposition of sanctions against the pro se litigant; or
- a pattern of making unreasonable, repetitive and excessive requests for information; or
- repeated filing of documents or requests for relief that have been the subject of previous rulings by the court in the same litigation.
The statute is effective 1 Jan 2015, what if any effect it will have on reducing frivolous and vexatious litigants is unknown. There is an extremely high likelihood that many judges will be hesitant to place this label on pro se litigants.