It is sometimes difficult to judge when enough is enough with unrepresented litigants. Anecdotally, when I worked as a litigator and in the court system, I observed that a fair proportion of unrepresented litigants possessed one or more of the following characteristics:
- An obsessive fixation on their grievance;
- A tendency to produce giant wads of documents in support of their claims (some of which are irrelevant);
- A tendency to file documents which use quasi-legal jargon but from which it is very difficult to glean any real issues. Such documents also often have combinations of CAPITALS, underlining and bold text to highlight certain points;
- A refusal to listen to advice on their claims, and a corresponding tendency to get angry when someone suggests that the claim is not valid; and
- A tendency to generate conspiracy theories as to their lack of success.
However, there are occasional success stories, even before the High Court of Australia. For example, in the High Court case of Gambotto, the Gambottos represented themselves in a case involving oppression of minority shareholders, and were successful. Courts and lawyers can’t automatically write off litigants in person, because everybody deserves a chance to make their case. Consequently courts tend to be reluctant to declare someone a vexatious litigant (meaning that they are unable to file any further proceedings). In the High Court, this is achieved by a vexatious proceedings order made pursuant to s 77RN(2) of the Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth). Continue reading