Understanding the Definition of a Troublesome Litigator
According to section 391(b) of the Code of Civil Procedure, a troublesome litigator is an individual who engages in one or more of the following:
- Commences, prosecutes, or maintains at least five litigations in propria persona (representing themselves) within a seven-year period, where these cases have either been decided against the person or have needlessly remained pending for at least two years.
- Repeatedly relitigates or attempts to relitigate the validity of a previously determined case against the same defendant(s) or the cause of action, claim, controversy, or any of the previously settled issues.
- Files repetitive meritless motions, pleadings, or other documents, holds unnecessary discovery, or utilizes tactics solely intended to cause unjustified delays.
- Has previously been declared a troublesome litigator in any state or federal court based on similar facts, transactions, or occurrences.
Under section 391.7, the court possesses the authority to issue a prefiling order, which prohibits a troublesome litigator from filing any new litigation in California without first obtaining permission from the presiding justice or judge. Failure to comply with this order may result in contempt of court charges.
The presiding justice or judge must only grant permission for filing if the litigation demonstrates merit and is not for the sole purpose of harassment or unnecessary delay. They may also require the litigator to provide security for the benefit of the defendants, as outlined in section 391.3.
The clerk is prohibited from accepting any litigation from a troublesome litigator subject to a prefiling order unless the litigator has first obtained permission from the presiding justice or judge.
In cases when the presiding justice or judge is unavailable, they may appoint another justice or judge from the same court to assume their responsibilities under sections (a) to (c).
The clerk is obligated to provide the Judicial Council with copies of any statewide prefiling orders related to troublesome litigators.
Under section 391.8(a), a troublesome litigator subject to a prefiling order may submit an application to vacate the order and have their name removed from the Judicial Council’s list of litigators subject to prefiling orders. The application must be filed in the court that issued the prefiling order, either in the original action or alongside a request to file new litigation under section 391.7. The application should be presented before the justice, judge, or their designated representative, responsible for issuing the order.
If the application under subdivision (a) is denied, the litigator cannot submit another application until 12 months have passed since the denial of the previous application, as stated in section 391.8(b).
A court may vacate a prefiling order and remove a litigator’s name from the Judicial Council’s list upon demonstrating a material change in the relevant facts and determining that justice would be served by vacating the order, per section 391.8(c).
The Judicial Council is obligated to annually distribute the list of troublesome litigators to court clerks. To remove a name from the list, the council requires a direct order from the respective court, specifically vacating the prefiling order.
Please note that if an individual has been declared a troublesome litigator but does not have a prefiling order or only has an order requiring posting of security, their name will not be included in the list.
- VL-100, Prefiling Order—Troublesome Litigator: This mandatory Judicial Council form is to be utilized by courts or parties when designating a person or organization as a troublesome litigator and requiring a prefiling order.
- VL-110, Request to File New Litigation by Troublesome Litigator: This optional form may be used by an individual who has been declared a troublesome litigator and must obtain prior court approval to file any new litigation in which they are not represented by an attorney. Filing new litigation encompasses commencing civil actions, proceedings, or filing petitions, applications, or non-discovery motions under the Family or Probate Code in California’s courts.
- VL-115, Order to File New Litigation by a Troublesome Litigator: This new optional form constitutes the order accompanying the Request to File New Litigation by Troublesome Litigator (form MC-701).
- VL-120, Application for Order to Vacate Prefiling Order and Remove Plaintiff/Petitioner from Judicial Council Troublesome Litigator List: This new optional form serves as an application by a troublesome litigator requesting removal from the list of litigators requiring prefiling approval.
- VL-125, Order on Application to Vacate Prefiling Order and Remove Plaintiff/Petitioner from Judicial Council Troublesome Litigator List: This new optional form is an order used to either grant or deny the troublesome litigator’s request for removal from the list.
For any inquiries regarding this list, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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