Fear of Being Called a Vexatious Litigant.

Editor’s comment: While I agree with the Appellate Court and its findings, reversing the judgment against the borrower for being a vexatious litigant, I strongly disagree with the characterization of the case which probably comes from bad pleading and bad argument in court. That is the danger of going into court without at least getting a consult from a knowledgeable attorney and why the number of people purchasing time from me for exactly that purpose is rising exponentially. Click Now to Consult with Neil Garfield

The obvious error here is at the  beginning, in the facts. The writer says “Factually it is yet another story of a debtor who borrowed money to buy a home, couldn’t repay it, and then filed everything she could think of pro se to prevent foreclosure.”

If the deal was subject to claims of securitizations and assignments, then the case was probably started improperly and argued improperly. Deny and Discover is getting the traction across the country. The simple reason is that if you admit that  you borrowed the money and impliedly or expressly admit that you borrowed it from the people foreclosing or their predecessors, you are already dead in the water. The transaction should have been denied.

If you admit non-payment and impliedly or expressly admit that the payment was due, you are once again, dead in the water. How do you know the payment was due? How do you whether the creditor has not already been settled out years ago with insurance, credit default swaps, federal bailouts, or Federal Reserve purchases? How do you know whether the investor-creditors made claims against the investment bank that sold them bogus mortgage bonds and then settled the case out? Why would you admit either principal or payment is due without a complete accounting from the subservicer, Master Servicer and Trustee (who by the way  knows nothing because there is probably an unfunded trust with a “trustee” who has no powers). Why would you admit something you know nothing about except that in the public domain you know these things were happening?

Deny and Discover is the way to force the other side to put up or shut up. This case was dismissed probably because the borrower admitted everything that was an element of a proper foreclosure. There was nothing left for the Judge to do except let it go through.

Madison v. Groseth (CA1 6/5/12)

Posted on June 5, 2012 by azappblog

This will interest those involved in foreclosures but for our purposes is significant as a useful discussion of the nuts and bolts of handling a vexatious litigant.

Factually it is yet another story of a debtor who borrowed money to buy a home, couldn’t repay it, and then filed everything she could think of pro se to prevent foreclosure. When she eventually lost, the trial court declared her a “vexatious litigant” and ordered her not to file further lawsuits about the property without court permission.

The court tells us in a footnote that such things are normally done by unappealable administrative order but that since this order was in a judgment (dismissing Madison’s Complaint) it is “essentially” an award of injunctive relief, which is appealable. Sometimes court are very strict about jurisdiction; other times, it seems, “essentially” having it is good enough.

A court has inherent authority over vexatious litigants but this opinion adopts a Ninth Circuit case (DeLong 1990) establishing procedural requirements. The trial court has to give notice and an opportunity to be heard, make a record for review, make “substantive findings as to the frivolous or harassing nature of the litigant’s actions,” and tailor the order narrowly.

The third step was at issue here and the Court of Appeals decides that the trial court got it wrong. Although it apparently made findings about all the lawsuits she had filed, it didn’t specifically find that any or all were frivolous or harassing. “[A] vexatious litigant order must rest on more than a recitation of the number of previously filed lawsuits.” In fact, it impliedly found to the contrary, at least about this particular lawsuit, by denying the defendants’ Rule 11/12-341.01C motion for fees. The court affirms the dismissal of Madison’s lawsuit but reverses the “vexatious litigant” order judgment.

Sometimes we like to think we have some effect on opinion writing, more often we realize we probably don’t, and once in a while we get paranoid and think that courts throw in things we won’t like just to spite us. One or two of the nine footnotes here might possibly be missed if they weren’t there. If jurisdiction is important enough to mention then its one of the more important things in the opinion and shouldn’t be stuck in a footnote. But what, for example, can possibly be the need, after mentioning in passing that this pro se plaintiff sued, among other things, for “conversion” of her home, for a footnote saying (and citing a case) that conversion applies only to chattels? The court sees the problem and so throws in a justification: “to avoid future confusion.” But who will be or has been confused? As for the people in this case, its over – and if it weren’t, if the case were going back on remand, then the court wouldn’t dare mention it. Does the court really think that somebody is going to read this case in the future and decide that it changed the law of conversion? Or is the court going out of its way to augment Ms. Madison’s legal education (for the next time she files one of those non-vexatious lawsuits)? And if it thinks that mentioning this allegation that had nothing to do with anything before the court will confuse, why mention it?

(link to opinion)

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