Crime and Credit Card Companies

Mental Health and Civil Litigation

Norm Pattis has a good post up about crazy litigants.  He presents a problem that, alas, might not have a solution.

Everyone knows that at least 90% of pro se litigants are nuts.  They are called rabid pro se litigants for a reason.  What do you do?  Not let them file lawsuits?  Would that be constitutional?  Moral?

Should judges mandate pro bono representation of pro se litigants?  How do you explain to a pro se litigant - and they all Know Everything About The Law - that some strategy is not only insensible; but it's frivolous? 

Mandating pro bono would just require lawyers to proceed with frivolous lawsuits.  If the lawsuit were any good, a lawyer would have taken it.  Almost by definition, a pro se lawsuit if frivolous.  So why involve lawyers?

Not involving lawyers makes life complicated for judges.  Unrepresented litigants call the judge's office several times a day.  Involving lawyers might make the judge's life easier.  But what about other innocent parties?

People sued by pro se litigants must hire lawyers to defend themselves against frivolous lawsuits.  This is expensive.  Since pro se litigants are nuts, they call opposing counsel several times a day.  This makes litigation costlier. 

Something must be done.  What?

I'd be in favor of limiting every person to one lawsuit a year.  If you're suing more than once a year, you're crazy.  I don't think that law would be constitutional.

There is one solution: Sanctions.  Judges allow pro se litigants to miss deadlines.  Judges liberally construe rules in favor of pro se litigants.  It's time to toughen up.  If a pro se litigant wants to make someone else's life Hell by filing a frivolous lawsuit, then let the litigant join in the fun.  If the lawsuit is frivolous, hit the litigant with sanctions.  Require the litigant to pay those sanctions as a condition to filing a second lawsuit.

The economy has tanked.  Fewer people can afford lawyers.  More litigants are going pro se.  Judges must do something now.  While it's unconstitutional to deny a person the right to file a lawsuit, it is constitutional to require all litigants to follow the rules.  Start giving pro se litigants what they claim they have been denied, namely, equal protection under the law: Make them follow the same rules everyone else must follow.