Eventually, it happens to us all. Somehow or other, we end up in court facing a vexatious litigant—a person who, acting in pro per, repeatedly pursues meritless law suits or frivolous pleadings, motions, and discovery. Ordinarily, this happens when a vexatious litigant sues, and we attorneys spend incredible (if unavoidable) amounts of time and money trying to extricate our clients from the fray.
California’s statutes, however, exist to reduce this risk to the unwary public, creating procedural obstacles to the filing of meritless litigation by individuals found to be vexatious litigants. (See Code Civ. Proc., §§ 391-391.7.) Once a person has been declared a vexatious litigant, he or she cannot file a new lawsuit in pro per in a California court without getting prior approval from the presiding judge or justice. (See Shalant v. Girardi (2011) 51 Cal.4th 1164, 1169-1170.) The same pre-filing requirements apply when a vexatious litigant attempts to appeal in pro per from an adverse judgment in a case in which he or she was the plaintiff. (See Mahdavi v. Superior Court (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 32, 41.)