Vexatious Pro Se Litigants in Texas

Texas has multiple procedural rules that allow a party to challenge a litigant’s position to make sure there is a valid legal and factual basis to the claims. Today’s blog will provide a simplified overview of Chapter 11 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code (“CPRC”) for vexatious pro se litigants who continually file multiple lawsuits without a valid basis. Anyone who has ever dealt with a republic of texas pro se litigant will want to brush up on Chapter 11 procedures. The filings usually come fast and furious.

Under Chapter 11, you can only file a motion against a pro se defendant and the statute specifically excludes licensed attorneys. Essentially, there are two types of Chapter 11 motions: (1) a motion requesting that a plaintiff be declared a vexatious litigant and be required to furnish security to proceed, and (2) a motion by any party or the court requesting that the vexatious litigant be prohibited from filing a new lawsuit without the permission of the local administrative judge. CPRC 11.051, 11.101(a).

Chapter 11 motions are time sensitive. The motion must be filed within 90 days after a party files their original answer or makes a special appearance. Defendant must also show that there is no reasonable probability that the plaintiff will prevail in the litigation. CPRC 11.054. In addition, Defendant must show one of the following: (a) in the seven years before the motion, pro se plaintiff commenced, prosecuted, or maintained at least five lawsuits that were (1) decided against the plaintiff, (2) pending for at least two years without being brought to trial or hearing, or (3) determined by a trial or appellate court to be frivolous or groundless. CPRC 11.054(1); (b) that another lawsuit was finally determined against the plaintiff and pro se plaintiff repeatedly relitigated or attempted to relitigate the cause of action, claim or controversy, issues of fact, issues of law, or validity of the final judgment against the same defendant. CPRC 11.054(2);or  (c) plaintiff has already been declared a vexatious litigant by a state or federal court based on the same or substantially similar facts, transactions or occurrences.

Once the Chapter 11 motion is filed, the litigation is stayed until the trial court rules on the Chapter 11 motion. A Plaintiff does not have to file a response; however, if a response is filed, a plaintiff should refute each of the arguments before the hearing. After notice, the court must conduct a hearing and evidence can be considered at the hearing via live testimony or affidavit. CPRC 11.053(b). If the court grants the Chapter 11 motion, the plaintiff must furnish security to cover the reasonable expenses incurred by the defendant, including costs and attorneys fees that would be recoverable if the litigation is dismissed. If Plaintiff does not furnish security as order by the court, the case will be dismissed.

The steps that have been taken over the past few years to reduce the number of baseless filing has made a difference although it sometimes has gone to far in restricting remedies for valid claims. The burden of proof is high on Chapter 11 motions, but at least there is another tool to stop the filing of lawsuits without merit so the judicial system can focus on the cases with merit. The opinions in this blog are solely the author’s and any comments, replies, or suggestions can be sent to john@jrjoneslaw.com. Happy New Year to everyone and their families.

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