Monday, February 04, 2002

vexatious litigants

I noticed a news article today about an attempt in the UK to allow people to file lawsuits online. Here's the beginning of what I was going to write:
An Online cybercourt is in the works in the UK. See the pilot page for the service, which is called Money Claim Online."
That's when I saw that "Vexatious Litigants cannot use the service." So what, exactly, is a Vexatious Litigant?

It's not something that we have in Delaware, but it seems to have found its way into other state courts.

It appears that legislatures have passed laws limiting, or denying, the use of the courts to people who pursue pro se actions that may seem to be an attempt to use litigation as a weapon to harm others. People are put on an official blacklist, barring them from filing any litigation, except possibly in small claims court.

California has such a statute, as does Florida. I stopped looking for others after I found out next that Texas also has a similar statute.

These statutes are aimed at people who aren't represented by an attorney. One of the means of being declared a "vexatious litigant" under a number of these statues, is to lose five (pro se) civil actions in a span of five years.

Is there a constitutional right to access to the courts? Does a statute like this deny that right? Or, is the statute a necessary evil, used to protect against those who would use civil litigation to frivilously harass others? I hope that we don't see something like this come to Delaware.
- William Slawski