January 25, 2023
By Bill Raftery
Vexatious litigants are nothing new; the Vexatious Actions Act was approved by the U.K.’s Parliament in 1896 after one person sued numerous people for little to no reason. While here in the United States the definition of what is “vexatious” differs from state to state, it can generally be defined as the filing of multiple pieces of litigation or litigation strategies within a certain time frame without legal merit and/or with intent to harass. In the United States, however, a specific law or court rule on how to deal with such litigation did not appear until California’s 1963 law. Since then, at least 12 states have adopted court rules, statutes, or both to contend with such vexatious litigation, including two recent changes to the existing statutes.
California’s AB 2391 of 2022 as enacted authorizes a person protected by a restraining order issued after a hearing to file a petition, without fee, to have the person who is the subject of that order declared a vexatious litigant if, while the restraining order is still in place, they commence, prosecute, or maintain litigation against the person protected by the restraining order that is determined to be meritless and causes the person protected by the order to be harassed or intimidated.
Washington’s H.B. 1901 of 2022 as enacted deals with what the state calls “Engaging in sexual or reproductive coercion” which includes “Engaging in vexatious litigation or abusive litigation as defined in RCW 26.51.020 [part of the states’ Abusive Litigation – Domestic Violence law] against the other party to harass, coerce, or control the other party, to diminish or exhaust the other party's financial resources, or to compromise the other party's employment or housing…”
Below is a listing of 12 states that have rules or statutes that specifically deal with vexatious litigants:
Rules and Statutes
HI ST § 634J-7 Vexatious litigant; prefiling order prohibiting filing of new litigation
MI R A MCR 7.216(C) Miscellaneous Relief - Vexatious Proceedings; Vexatious Litigator (Court of Appeals) and MI R A MCR 7.316(C) Miscellaneous Relief - Vexatious Proceedings; Vexatious Litigator (Supreme Court)
NV ST S CT Rule 9.5 List of Vexatious Litigants (Rule) & NV ST 155.165 Finding of vexatious litigant; sanctions; standing of interested party and vexatious litigant under certain circumstances (Statute)
How does your state or court handle vexatious litigation? Share your experiences with us. For more information, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.