Meet the ‘Vexatious Litigants’: People Who Can’t Stop Going to Court

Rahman, whose wife died a few years ago in a traffic accident, is now primarily devoted to litigating. In what little spare time he has, he reads the Koran, tends to his fruit trees and studies law, making do on a few hours’ sleep a night. As a vexatious litigant, he will now need special leave to begin legal proceedings in NSW, but there is, he claims, still the International Criminal Court to consider. Though he has been declared bankrupt and lost one of his houses, he carries on with tireless, doomed determination.

The British lord chief justice Thomas Bingham observed that the vexatious litigant keeps on when “on any rational and objective assessment, the time has come to stop”. Australian judge Nye Perram identified “the capacity to endure failure beyond the point at which a rational person would abandon the field”.

There are fewer than 100 vexatious litigants in Australia. According to Grant Lester, a forensic psychiatrist who has studied the field extensively, courts are loath to make the declaration in any but the most extreme cases.

“To manage to be made a vexatious litigant, you have to be the crème de la crème,” he says. “Your most sacrosanct right is to have your day in court.”

Sam Bungey in The Monthly.

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Photo: fabliaux, Flickr