Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Not Quite Vexatious Duo

John v. Superior Court, No. B256604 (D2d7 Nov. 10, 2014)

California’s vexatious litigant statutes, Code of Civil Procedure § 319–319.8, apply in both trial court and on appeal. A pro se plaintiff who has been declared vexatious needs to get pre-filing permission from the presiding judge (for trial court) or the presiding justice (for appellate courts) before proceeding. But what the happens when a vexatious litigant get sued, loses, and then wants to appeal? Does she need leave from the presiding justice to pursue her appeal? The court here says no. Neither the language of the statutes, their purposes, or the legislative history warrant requiring pre-filing approval under such circumstances.

Writ granted.


**NOTE: The Supreme Court granted review of this case on February 11, 2015.


Garcia v. Lacey, No. F066681 (D5 Nov. 12, 2014)

Plaintiff in this prisoner case was declared a vexatious litigant under Code of Civil Procedure § 391, which, as I just said, requires any plaintiff who commenced at least five pro per litigations over the past seven years that resulted in adverse results to obtain the presiding judge’s permission before filing again. The defendant submitted court records about nine prior litigations, eight of which were filed in federal court. Five of the federal court cases were dismissed on pre-filing screening under the Prison Reform Litigation Act, which gives federal courts the authority to refuse to grant in forma pauperis applications from pro se prisoners when their complaints are facially meritless, and to refuse to accept the complaint for filing. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A. In these cases, because no complaint was ever accepted for filing in the federal court, the five actions were never “commenced, prosecuted, or maintained” as required by § 391. Consequently, there were only four matters that actually satisfy the standard, so plaintiff doesn’t yet qualify as vexatious.

Reversed.

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