Court makes ‘vexatious litigant’ order over repeated meritless claims
A businessman who raised a series of “hopelessly irrelevant” and “incompetent” legal actions after being sequestrated for failing to pay his council tax has been declared a “vexatious litigant”.
The Inner House of the Court of Session granted an order against Mohammed Aslam following an application by the Lord Advocate, which prevents the respondent from initiating civil proceedings unless he obtains the permission of a judge.
The Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian, sitting with Lord Malcolm and Lord Glennie, heard that Mr Aslam was sequestrated in 2008, but had since maintained that the charge upon which his sequestration proceeded was “wrongfully obtained”.
This triggered a decade of litigation, during which the respondent raised several actions for damages, made numerous applications for certain court orders, and lodged appeals challenging decisions against him - all of which were unsuccessful.
‘Incompetent and irrelevant’
The Lord Advocate lodged a petition in terms of section 100 of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, which provides that the Inner House may make a vexatious litigant order, seeking to prevent the respondent from raising proceedings in the Court of Session or Sheriff Court without first obtaining permission from a judge in terms of section 101, and to prevent him from appealing against any judgment without such permission.
It was submitted that the respondent had “habitually and persistently” instituted legal proceedings and made vexatious applications to the court without any reasonable ground for doing so - all of which had related subject matter but were refused as “incompetent or irrelevant”.
The respondent had demonstrated a refusal to accept judicial decisions which are unfavourable to him by repeatedly attempting to re-litigate matters already judicially determined, wasting the time and resources of the court on claims which were “without merit”.
The actions and applications involved allegations of an “increasingly scandalous tone”, directed towards a widening circle of individuals.
Repeated awards of expenses had been made against him but none had been paid.
When the respondent was invited to address the decisions in the cases which were listed in the petition and seek to explain to the court why they should not be viewed as vexatious and why the court should not exercise its discretion in making the order sought, he did not do so.
It was clear that he was intent on addressing matters relating to the merits of the actions previously litigated, and in laying before the court in full his grievances against Glasgow City Council and others.
Granting the application, the judges observed that it was not enough for an individual to be classed as a vexatious litigant that actions which he had raised had not succeeded which was the key, rather that the failure in question had been based on there being “no merit” even to commence the litigation.
Delivering the opinion of the court, the Lord Justice Clerk said: “The critical finding will be that repeated litigations and applications have failed for reasons of competence, irrelevance and the like. It is the fact that repeated actions were commenced with there being no reasonable grounds for doing so which can render them vexatious.
“An examination of the proceedings and applications enumerated in the petition shows that in the respondent’s case such a conclusion is amply warranted. The majority of the proceedings initiated by the respondent have been dismissed as incompetent. Notwithstanding, he has on several occasions simply attempted to re-litigate the cause on the same incompetent basis despite being advised by the court that dismissal would be the result.”
The court noted the observations of the sheriffs and judges who had determined the previous actions, who dismissed the actions as “hopelessly flawed” and “hopelessly irrelevant” and described his pleadings as “voluminous, repetitious and rambling and in many respects completely incomprehensible”.
The respondent’s attitude when decisions had gone against him was to resort to abuse of the judicial office holders involved, accusing them of “acting unfairly, abusing their positions and failing to carry out the responsibilities of their judicial oaths”.
Lady Dorrian added: “The repeated flouting of court orders, and a failure to recognise the effect of decisions of the court in respect of the incompetent nature of certain applications, making repeat attempts of the same kind doomed to failure, are repetitive features of the respondent’s conduct. The bringing of actions on exactly the same basis as one which has been dismissed for want of competence is an example.”
She concluded: “On the basis of the narrative we have given, and in particular the observations made by the judges in the respective cases, all as quoted above, we have no hesitation in concluding that the requirements of section 101(1) have been established. The only remaining question is whether we should exercise our discretion in the interests of justice to make the order sought. Again, we have no hesitation in doing so.
“The respondent has had no success in obtaining any of the remedies sought, in each case because the applications were irrelevant or incompetent. In several instances this must have been clear to him at the outset, given that prior applications on the same grounds had been refused as incompetent. The claims have been directed against an ever increasing circle, and the averments have become progressively more scandalous.
“The respondent has refused to accept judicial decisions which have gone against him, and has failed to pay awards of expenses. In all the circumstances we are satisfied that it would be appropriate to grant the order sought by the Lord Advocate.”
© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2020