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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today, including guidance to the state courts dealing with abusive and vexatious litigation practices

In Gersh Zavodnik v. Irene Harper, a 14-page per curiam opinion in a case with a pro se appellant, the Court writes:

The trial court dismissed Mr. Zavodnik's action under Indiana Trial Rule 41(E), and the Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed his appeal for failure to file a timely brief and appendix. We now deny transfer by this per curiam opinion, which also gives guidance to this state's courts on some options when confronted with abusive and vexatious litigation practices.

Plaintiff Gersh Zavodnik is a prolific, abusive litigant. A search of his name brings up 123 cases in Marion County and other counties on the Odyssey case management system (which is not yet in place in all Indiana counties). All but three of those cases were filed since January 2008. Mr. Zavodnik is also a party in thirty-four cases before the Court of Appeals and this Court, including twenty-three special judge requests. * * *

Nothing Mr. Zavodnik has filed or done in this case shows any desire to litigate this case expeditiously to resolution on the merits. Rather, he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings. And this Court has previously warned Mr. Zavodnik against continuing such abusive and burdensome litigation tactics. * * *

As a matter of grace, this Court will once again decline to impose sanctions on Mr. Zavodnik. But we will provide the courts of this state with guidance on options available to sanction and otherwise restrict the abusive and burdensome litigation tactics practiced by Mr. Zavodnik and a small number of other litigants in this state. * * *

I. Litigants Do Not Have a License to Abuse the Litigation Process [p. 5]

A. Statutes and rules addressing abusive litigation practices.[p. 5]

B. Inherent power of courts to limit abusive litigation practices. [p. 6]

II. Pro Se Litigants Must Play by the Rules [p. 8]

III. Litigants Do Not Have an Unfettered Right to Proceed In Forma Pauperis [p. 9]

IV. Courts May Place Reasonable Limits on Filings by Abusive Litigants [p. 10]

[examples of restrictions are listed on p. 11]

V. Judges Should Not Bow to Baseless Demands for Disqualification [p. 11]

Conclusion. * * *

Being duly advised, the Court DENIES the appellant’s petition to transfer jurisdiction. The Court refrains from imposing sanctions or restrictions at this point, but Mr. Zavodnik can expect any further abusive litigation practices in any judicial forum in this state to be met with appropriate sanctions and restrictions. No petition for rehearing is permitted. See App. R. 58(B).

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 30, 2014 11:38 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions