The Vexatious Litigant

BarristerDr. Valery Fabrikant was an unstable, temperamental, and frustrated engineering professor at Concordia University in Montreal when he slaughtered four of his colleagues in 1992. Acting as his own lawyer, he sabotaged his case at trial, although his murderous actions were never in issue.

No doubt impressed with his own legal prowess, he continued to file lawsuits and was eventually declared a vexatious litigant by the Quebec Superior Court in 2000, an apparently ineffective tool as today the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed his attempt to appeal a Federal Court of Appeal ruling made in 2014.

So, how does one merit a vexatious litigant label? A vexatious litigant is a person who continually brings frivolous, unmeritorious law suits intended to harass, insult and abuse the victims of his court actions and to undermine the justice system. Vexatious litigants typically represent themselves as no legitimate lawyer will take on these cases.

Attaching this label to a litigant and curtailing his recourse to the courts or ensuring that no claim can be brought without the permission of the Chief Justice of the Court is a draconian measure that is only ordered in extreme cases.

Notable vexatious litigants include:

1. JULIAN KNIGHT, an Australian mass murderer with an IQ of 132 who gunned down seven people and injured 19 in the Hoddle Street Massacre in Victoria in 1987. Knight’s multiple lawsuits were directed at prison officials and the Australian government over issues concerning prison conditions, prison discipline, access to mail, solitary confinement, and a myriad of other petty complaints. Knight was eligible for parole in 2014 but the government enacted legislation that year preventing Knight’s release from prison.

2. LAWRENCE BITTAKER, a serial murderer from California who raped, tortured, and murdered five young female hitchhikers over a period of six months in 1979. Bittaker, with an !Q of 138, sits on California’s Death Row. He filed 40 separate lawsuits against the State of California including one claiming “cruel and unusual punishment” because he was served a broken cookie. He was declared a vexatious litigant in 1993 and requires the permission of a lawyer or judge before he can commence any court actions.

3. CLIFFORD OLSON, British Columbia serial killer of 11 children between the ages of 8 and 15, in 1981, was declared a vexatious litigant by the federal court in 1994. He had filed over 30 lawsuits over issues including his lack of access to the media, his designation as a sexual offender, and his inability to vote in elections. It was reported that his case prompted the Canadian government to legislate against early release law, called the “faint hope clause”, for serial killers.

Of course, not all vexatious litigants are deranged murderers, however, prison inmates seem to be attracted to this attention-getting tactic.

4. JONATHAN LEE RICHES is a former federal prisoner in Kentucky, convicted of wire fraud, who filed over 2,600 lawsuits in six years. Victims of his court filings included publishing maven Martha Stewart; former president George W. Bush; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick; gossip columnist Perez Hilton; pop singer Britney Spears; Apple founder Steve Jobs, and Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Psychiatrists describe vexatious litigants as suffering from “querulous paranoia” or “litigious paranoia”, a subtype of a delusional disorder manifested in persons who feel obsessively wronged about minor issues and petty offences, accompanied by groundless allegations.

Their deleterious impact on the justice system cannot be overstated and unfortunately, their numbers have escalated in the last twenty years.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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9 thoughts on “The Vexatious Litigant

  1. Not all vexatious litigants are like these guys.

    In BC, I read cases in the Court of Appeal (see Canlii.org) about a woman who became blind in one eye, after an operation. She sued the doctors. She didn’t win, so she appealed, and filed other cases, as a self-represented litigant. The Court of Appeal didn’t dismiss her case initially. The cases were consolidated. Later, she was declared vexatious. What I read, between the lines, is that the poor woman, fighting against malpractice lawyers (the best money can hire), was stymied by the intricacies of litigation process. It is very, very difficult to win against insurance lawyers (did a survey long time ago, and discovered that insurance defence lawyers win over 80 percent of the time.)

    In my eye, the vexatiious litigant was just frustrated.

    I have seen other vexing cases like this, in divorce matters, too. The husband suing his ex-wife’s lawyer for alleged lying and such. In British Columbia. The husband didn’t win, of course.

    What judgments don’t show (just my 2 cents) generally, is that there is injustice in the game called litigation.

    Let’s avoid litigation. Be informed, be thankful for good health, be happy, life is too short.

    Litigation is only for those who want to be unhappy, whatever the outcome, imo.

  2. After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the exact same comment. Is there a way you can remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!

  3. Great blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely confused .. Any recommendations? Thank you!

    1. Yes, I do. Write regularly and write well. Your posts don’t have to be long, in fact, 400 words is often as much as you need. I recommend you start with WordPress. They are a great company and provide lots of assistance to new bloggers. Every time you read an article or come across an issue that strikes you, bookmark it, so that when you are short on ideas you can go to your list of interesting topics. Good luck and have fun!

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