Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Does Applying The Vexatious Litigant Statute To Appeals Violate The California Constitution?

In In re R.H. (here), the Court of Appeal has decided that applying the vexatious litigant statute to appeals does not violate the California Constitution. In this decision, a litigant who had filed thirteen appeals or writ proceedings without winning one was declared a vexatious litigant who had to get a "prefiling order" from the Presiding Justice before initiating a new appellate proceeding. He contended that this requirement violated Article VI, section 3, which states in part that the "[c]oncurrence of 2 judges present at the argument is necessary for a judgment.” He also cited Article VI, section 14 of the California Constitution, which provides that "[d]ecisions of the Supreme Court and courts of appeal that determine causes shall be in writing with reasons stated.” However, the court rejected these claims, holding that the Presiding Justice's prefiling order decision was not a determination of the merits of an appeal, but only a decision as to whether an appeal had sufficient merit to proceed. "Thus, by [Code of Civil Procedure] section 391.7’s own terms, the presiding justice in determining whether to permit the appeal to proceed does not pass on its merits. The presiding justice merely determines if there is an issue to review on appeal." Seems right to me.

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