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The Need for Sua Sponte Judicial Review Laws For Pro Se Litigants’ Lawsuits

“This website addresses the problem of meritless, abusive lawsuits filed by self-represented / pro se litigants and calls for legislative action that requires judges to practice sua sponte judicial review of all pro se litigants’ lawsuits.

This website also addresses the problem of religious frauds and various disturbing and harmful tactics that religious frauds use against their victims – including filing meritless, abusive lawsuits.

The matters discussed in this website involve subjects which merit constitutionally protected public scrutiny, and this website provides documentation, commentary and opinion on matters of public concern.”

Paulette Buchanan, M.A.

Florida’s Law – Leading the Way Toward a Judicial Review Law

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.

68.093Florida 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.

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