Judicial Review Bill
The Overwhelming Problem of Pro Se Litigants
Statistically, the number of self-represented or pro se lawsuits has increased exponentially in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Some statistics show that cases in which one party is pro se / self-represented range up to nearly 90% of civil cases being brought in some state jurisdictions. In some states, there is such an abundance of cases filed by pro se litigants that courts have designated certain days out of each week as “Pro Se Day” in which they hear only pro se cases. Statistically, if abusive / vexatious lawsuits filed by self-represented / pro se litigants were a disease it would be an epidemic.
Although not all pro se litigants are abusive / vexatious, the vast majority of lawsuits brought by pro se litigants are in fact demonstrated to be meritless and abusive / vexatious, and a high percentage of ALL pro se / self-represented lawsuits fail to receive any favorable ruling.
Abusive pro se litigants can often create a snowball effect of other extremely damaging events for innocent defendants. The first problem that arises is the great difficulty in finding an attorney willing to take a case in which the plaintiff is a pro se litigant, especially an aggressive pro se litigant with a history of filing baseless lawsuits. Innocent victims seeking legal representation against pro se litigants will often hear from attorneys (if they hear anything back at all after leaving messages) that:
- “Pro se litigants are a pain in the ass because they file countless motions and judges bend over backwards for them.”
- “What if the pro se litigant comes after me and my family? I can’t risk getting involved.”
- “We never take cases dealing with pro se litigants.”
- “The only way we’ll take your case is if you pay us $50,000 up front because pro se litigants always drag out their cases by filing for continuances after continuances and other time-wasting motions.”
Another problem that can be incurred by innocent defendants of an abusive pro se litigant when they are finally able to find an attorney to defend them is when the attorney promises to “fight aggressively” for the victim-defendants. Yet, in reality, these opportunistic attorneys equate the innocent defendants’ desperation with dollar signs. These kinds of unscrupulous attorneys realize that abusive pro se litigants know all the tricks in the book and the attorneys just allow them to play their games, taking years in court hearings and continuances in which nothing is really accomplished. Unethical attorneys like this often tell the innocent defendant shelling out tens of thousands of dollars such statements as, “really, I’ve got this. You just need to trust me. These cases just always take a long time. I’m the attorney and I know what I’m doing. By the way, I’ll need another $2,000 from you.” It’s horrible enough for innocent people to have a meritless, harassing, defamatory lawsuit filed against them by an abusive pro se litigant, but then to find themselves taken advantage of by an unethical, unprofessional attorney makes the ordeal that much worse.
Yet another difficulty innocent defendants face in meritless, harassing, defamatory lawsuits filed by abusive pro se litigants comes from the bench itself. Many times judges themselves can feel threatened by the courtroom antics of pro se litigants or just grow weary of the endless stream of lengthy rambling motions that pro se litigants are infamous for filing. They will then “suggest” to innocent defendants, “why don’t you just settle this to put an end to it.” In other words, the innocent victim is pressured by the judge to reward the abusive pro se litigant just so the judge is no longer inconvenienced. This is nothing short of extortion.
For innocent defendants who are homeowners, homeowner insurance companies oftentimes find every excuse imaginable to breach their contract and refuse to provide promised representation to the policy holder, even when specific umbrella policies promise to defend policy holders against defamation lawsuits. If a homeowner can actually succeed in getting their homeowner insurance company to agree to uphold its contractual duties and obtain legal representation for their policy holder, more often than not the homeowner insurance company will reward the abusive litigant (whether pro se or represented by an attorney) by offering to settle rather than “put out the money” to defend the innocence of the defendant. Many abusive litigants – pro se or represented by an attorney – know that more often than not they can be rewarded for filing meritless, harassing lawsuits if a defendant’s insurance company gets involved. It’s a horrible scam and again this practice is nothing short of extortion.
Florida’s Law – Leading the Way Toward a Judicial Review Law
In 2019 Florida passed a Vexatious Litigant bill into law aimed directly at decreasing the devastating financial damage and utter waste of time that abusive pro se litigants cause. California and Texas, for example, have similar laws, except that in those states an abusive litigant’s case may simply be dismissed instead of dismissed with prejudice, as the Florida law requires (dismissal of a case with prejudice means that the litigant is barred from filing a new lawsuit making the same claims that were dismissed). The Florida law calls for the imposition of bond that the pro se litigant can be required to pay before proceeding any further with the lawsuit, as can be found, for example, in California and Texas laws. Every state and federal court needs to enact a very similar law as Florida has enacted – at least until a Judicial Review Law is passed so as to provide some stop gap measure to prevent the abuse of court process and the extensive damage committed against innocent people by abusive / vexatious pro se litigants. All the same, it must be pointed out that the tragedy with Florida and other states’ similar Vexatious Litigant laws is that they do not prevent innocent defendants from having to expend their finances and time to hire attorneys to respond with appropriate motions using the provisions of this law. Even if defendants choose to fight pro se against the lawsuit of an abusive pro se litigant and file motions citing this law they still have to take time away from work and their lives to respond to the abusive pro se litigant. The only real solution is to pass a Judicial Review Law that requires judges to exercise the sua sponte power they already possess so as to stop abusive pro se litigants from causing any expense in money or time to their victims.
68.093 Florida Vexatious Litigant Law.—
(1) This section may be cited as the “Florida Vexatious Litigant Law.”
(2) As used in section, the term:
(a) “Action” means a civil action governed by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and proceedings governed by the Florida Probate Rules, but does not include actions concerning family law matters governed by the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure or any action in which the Florida Small Claims Rules apply.
(b) “Defendant” means any person or entity, including a corporation, association, partnership, firm, or governmental entity, against whom an action is or was commenced or is sought to be commenced.
(c) “Security” means an undertaking by a vexatious litigant to ensure payment to a defendant in an amount reasonably sufficient to cover the defendant’s anticipated, reasonable expenses of litigation, including attorney’s fees and taxable costs.
(d) “Vexatious litigant” means:
1. A person as defined in s. 1.01(3) who, in the immediately preceding 5-year period, has commenced, prosecuted, or maintained, pro se, five or more civil actions in any court in this state, except an action governed by the Florida Small Claims Rules, which actions have been finally and adversely determined against such person or entity; or
2. Any person or entity previously found to be a vexatious litigant pursuant to this section.
An action is not deemed to be “finally and adversely determined” if an appeal in that action is pending. If an action has been commenced on behalf of a party by an attorney licensed to practice law in this state, that action is not deemed to be pro se even if the attorney later withdraws from the representation and the party does not retain new counsel.
(3)(a) In any action pending in any court of this state, including actions governed by the Florida Small Claims Rules, any defendant may move the court, upon notice and hearing, for an order requiring the plaintiff to furnish security. The motion shall be based on the grounds, and supported by a showing, that the plaintiff is a vexatious litigant and is not reasonably likely to prevail on the merits of the action against the moving defendant.
(b) At the hearing upon any defendant’s motion for an order to post security, the court shall consider any evidence, written or oral, by witness or affidavit, which may be relevant to the consideration of the motion. No determination made by the court in such a hearing shall be admissible on the merits of the action or deemed to be a determination of any issue in the action. If, after hearing the evidence, the court determines that the plaintiff is a vexatious litigant and is not reasonably likely to prevail on the merits of the action against the moving defendant, the court shall order the plaintiff to furnish security to the moving defendant in an amount and within such time as the court deems appropriate.
(c) If the plaintiff fails to post security required by an order of the court under this section, the court shall immediately issue an order dismissing the action with prejudice as to the defendant for whose benefit the security was ordered.
(d) If a motion for an order to post security is filed prior to the trial in an action, the action shall be automatically stayed and the moving defendant need not plead or otherwise respond to the complaint until 10 days after the motion is denied. If the motion is granted, the moving defendant shall respond or plead no later than 10 days after the required security has been furnished.
(4) In addition to any other relief provided in this section, the court in any judicial circuit may, on its own motion or on the motion of any party, enter a pre-filing order prohibiting a vexatious litigant from commencing, pro se, any new action in the courts of that circuit without first obtaining leave of the administrative judge of that circuit. Disobedience of such an order may be punished as contempt of court by the administrative judge of that circuit. Leave of court shall be granted by the administrative judge only upon a showing that the proposed action is meritorious and is not being filed for the purpose of delay or harassment. The administrative judge may condition the filing of the proposed action upon the furnishing of security as provided in this section.
(5) The clerk of the court shall not file any new action by a vexatious litigant pro se unless the vexatious litigant has obtained an order from the administrative judge permitting such filing. If the clerk of the court mistakenly permits a vexatious litigant to file an action pro se in contravention of a pre-filing order, any party to that action may file with the clerk and serve on the plaintiff and all other defendants a notice stating that the plaintiff is a pro se vexatious litigant subject to a pre-filing order. The filing of such a notice shall automatically stay the litigation against all defendants to the action. The administrative judge shall automatically dismiss the action with prejudice within 10 days after the filing of such notice unless the plaintiff files a motion for leave to file the action. If the administrative judge issues an order permitting the action to be filed, the defendants need not plead or otherwise respond to the complaint until 10 days after the date of service by the plaintiff, by United States mail, of a copy of the order granting leave to file the action.
(6) The clerk of a court shall provide copies of all pre-filing orders to the Clerk of the Florida Supreme Court, who shall maintain a registry of all vexatious litigants.
(7) The relief provided under this section shall be cumulative to any other relief or remedy available to a defendant under the laws of this state and the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, including, but not limited to, the relief provided under s. 57.105.
History.—s. 1, ch. 2000-314.
Proposed Bill Requiring Sua Sponte Judicial Review Of Pro Se Litigants’ Lawsuits
Bill for Sua Sponte Judicial Review of Complaints Filed by Self-Represented (Pro Se) Plaintiff in Civil Court; Fair and Expeditious Handling of In Forma Pauperis Pro Se Plaintiff
Every Complaint filed by a Self-Represented (Pro Se) Plaintiff in civil court must be sworn to under penalty of perjury and undergo stringent Sua Sponte Judicial Review by a judge, or by a court appointed attorney in good standing in the jurisdiction where the Complaint is filed. Sua Sponte Judicial Review shall include reviewing and confirming evidence presented and a strictly enforced practice of requiring a Pro Se Plaintiff to abide by the same laws, rules and conduct which attorneys are required to uphold and practice. A docket case number shall NOT be assigned to a Complaint filed by a Pro Se Plaintiff until the court, acting Sua Sponte, renders a preliminary decision on the validity of that Complaint. The following information will be given in writing to every Pro Se Plaintiff before filing a Complaint with the court clerk:
1) The Pro Se Plaintiff must pay a $500.00 fee for the filing of the Complaint, with each additional Defendant costing a fee of $350.00.
2) The Pro Se Plaintiff must list all previous lawsuits filed Pro Se, in all states and U.S. territories, and provide official court documentation as to the outcomes of those previous lawsuits filed Pro Se.
3) The Pro Se Plaintiff’s Complaint must undergo Sua Sponte Judicial Review by a judge or a court appointed attorney in good standing:
a) Sua Sponte Judicial Review shall examine verifiable documentation presented by the Pro Se Plaintiff and determine preliminarily if sufficient proof exists, that there are valid and verifiable claims for which relief can be granted, that the substance of the Complaint in whole or in part is covered by existing law, that the named Defendant(s) is/are in the court’s jurisdiction, and that the substance of the Complaint in whole or in part has not exceeded the time limit set by any and all statutes of limitations;
b) Sua Sponte Judicial Review and decision by the court regarding whether the Complaint filed by the Pro Se Plaintiff can proceed and be assigned a docket case number shall be rendered within 120 days;
c) The Complaint filing fee is non-refundable. After the court has denied a Complaint, if the Pro Se Plaintiff files a subsequent Complaint, each subsequent Complaint will require a new $500.00 filing fee, plus a new $350.00 fee per additional Defendant;
d) Upon three (3) Sua Sponte Judicial Review rejections of Complaint by a Pro Se Plaintiff, the Pro Se Plaintiff will no longer be allowed to file Complaints Pro Se in any of the state’s civil courts.
4) Upon Sua Sponte Judicial Review approval that a Pro Se Plaintiff’s Complaint can proceed the Pro Se Plaintiff must post a security bond determined by the court not to exceed $100,000.00. The Pro Se Plaintiff’s Complaint CANNOT be given a case number, nor can a court server be hired to serve notification of lawsuit, nor can an Order of Notice be issued by the court, nor can subpoenas be issued, until Pro Se Plaintiff posts a security bond:
a) From that security bond the Defendant(s) shall receive financial compensation for all expenses incurred by the Defendant(s) in the event the Pro Se Plaintiff’s case is dismissed by Pro Se Plaintiff or by the court or a judgment is rendered against or appeal denied against Pro Se Plaintiff;
b) If the Pro Se Plaintiff cannot post security bond within 30 days then the Pro Se Plaintiff’s lawsuit shall be dismissed with prejudice.
5) All Pro Se Plaintiffs are required to obtain the presiding judge’s approval for any application for subpoenas; Pro Se Plaintiffs must provide to the presiding judge their reasons for requesting subpoenas including supporting evidence with sworn affidavits under penalty of perjury.
6) In the event that a Pro Se Plaintiff has either a case dismissed or a judgment rendered against their case or appeal denied against their case, an automatic injunction will be issued against the Pro Se Plaintiff to prohibit that individual from filing any subsequent Pro Se actions in any of the state’s courts.
7) In the event a dismissal occurs or a judgment is rendered against or appeal denied against the Pro Se Plaintiff, the Pro Se Plaintiff may face appropriate criminal charges and/or contempt of court fines due to the court finding that the Pro Se Plaintiff acted in a malicious and/or harassing manner and/or presented fraudulent, false and misleading statements and/or documentation (e.g., perjury); the payment of fines may involve seizure of assets; in lieu of imposed fines due to lack of means or assets to pay fines the court may order appropriate incarceration and/or community service.
8) In the event a dismissal occurs or a judgment is rendered against or appeal denied against the Pro Se Plaintiff the court may order Pro Se Plaintiff into mental health evaluation.
9) In the event a dismissal occurs or a judgment is rendered against or appeal denied against the Pro Se Plaintiff, Defendant(s) may be granted a permanent Protective Order/No Contact Order against the Pro Se Plaintiff; ALL Protective Orders/No Contact Orders against the Pro Se Plaintiff must require state seizure of all guns owned by the Pro Se Plaintiff and be disposed or sold by the state. Proceeds of the sale of those guns can be ordered by the court to go to the victims and/or to the state to pay legal expenses and/or court fines.
10) All name(s), official and aliases, known to the court that have been used by Pro Se Plaintiffs who have pre-filing injunctions ordered against them shall be registered and recorded on all counties’ court clerk databases and be recorded on the state’s judicial web site as part of easily accessible public information.
In Forma Pauperis Pro Se Plaintiff
11) The In Forma Pauperis Pro Se Plaintiff must demonstrate with verifiable documentation the lack of sufficient funds to pay for all costs associated with court action in filing for In Forma Pauperis status.
12) All of the requirements of 2, 3a, b and d apply equally to In Forma Pauperis Pro Se Plaintiffs.
13) Payment for all court fees and Officer of the Court fees shall come from the state’s funds.
14) Upon Sua Sponte Judicial Review approval that In Forma Pauperis Pro Se Plaintiff’s Complaint can proceed, payment for a security bond shall come from the state’s funds before the Complaint can receive a case number and official notification to Defendant(s) can be granted:
a) In the event a dismissal occurs or a judgment is rendered against or appeal denied against an In Forma Pauperis Pro Se Plaintiff, Defendant(s) shall receive financial compensation up to the security bond amount from state funds for legal expenses incurred by the Defendant(s).
15) All of 5-10 apply equally to In Forma Pauperis Pro Se Plaintiffs.
This proposed bill does not in any way deny anyone acting pro se the right of access to the courts for filing legitimate lawsuits. Nor does this proposed bill violate any state or federal constitutional rights. Rather, this proposed bill seeks fair and equitable treatment of all parties – which is supposed to be the constitutional basis for all state and federal laws.
This proposed bill gives all pro se litigants the benefit of review of their lawsuit by a judge or court appointed attorney for only the few hundred dollars required in typical court filing fees. This proposed bill also ensures that innocent parties that are the intended defendants are financially protected from having to spend multiple tens of thousands of dollars to simply defend and prove their innocence in meritless lawsuits filed by pro se litigants for the sole purpose of harassing, defaming and causing financial damage to their intended victims. This proposed sua sponte judicial review bill protects victims from the psychological harm, harm to reputation, harm to finances, and potential harm to employment that stalkers-through-the-courts typically cause to their victims.
The reader should keep in mind that when this bill or any other bill is proposed to legislators that the typical process is for all proposed bills to undergo legal scrutiny according to state and federal constitutional law. Once a bill passes legal muster, that bill will then most likely undergo revisions as the bill goes before various committees until the revised bill comes to a final vote and awaits the governor’s signature or veto.