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.