Father and Mother were married and lived in Northern California when their
marriage ended. They had one child together – a toddler –
at the time.
In pre-trial proceedings, Mother was granted temporary sole physical and
legal custody of their child. She was also granted a temporary restraining
order against Father.
Father, at the time represented by counsel, responded by filing a motion
against Mother claiming that she was at risk to abuse, abduct, and/or
neglect their child. He also accused her of fraud. The trial court rejected
the allegations against Mother.
Father, now acting without an attorney, filed another motion against Mother
claiming that she was at risk to abuse, abduct, and/or neglect their child.
Again, the court found for Mother.
In the next two years of litigation, Father (representing himself) filed
15 motions against Mother from modifying custody and visitation orders,
to changing visitation locations, to have Mother found in contempt of
court. The trial court denied all of the motions.
After failing all 15 motions, at Mother’s request, the trial court
found Father to be a vexatious litigant, stating that the purpose of his
motions was to “grind [Mother] down.” He was ordered to pay
$24,197 in Mother’s attorney’s fees. And, as a vexatious litigant,
he was placed on the court’s vexatious litigants list, and prevented
from filing further motions without first filing a pre-filing order. Father appealed.
The Appellate Court agreed with the trial court.
A vexatious litigant is one who files legal actions to harass, or perhaps
subdue an adversary. The actions themselves can be unwarranted, frivolous,
burdensome, and are oftentimes meritless. In short, these litigants abuse
the legal system. Courts have the responsibility of maintaining fairness
and justice for all litigants, and will use their power to prevent abuse
of the legal system to ensure that fairness and justice.