Inquiry into Vexatious Litigants

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The Law Reform Committee was given terms of reference for the inquiry into vexatious litigants with the final report to be tabled in Parliament by 4 December 2008. Vexatious litigants are people who repeatedly begin court proceedings without any reasonable grounds for their cases. The Committee was asked to look into the effect that vexatious litigants have on the court systems and on the people or companies who they take court proceedings against, and whether the current laws are effective in dealing with vexatious litigants. The Committee tabled its final report in Parliament on 4 December 2008.

Final report

cover of the final report for the Inquiry into Vexatious Litigants

The Committee tabled its final report in Parliament on 4 December 2008. The Committee made 32 recommendations aimed at preventing and managing vexatious litigants in the justice system where possible, and restricting access to the courts only in serious cases. The report is pdf available for download as a pdf file 3.86 Mb.

If you would like a hard copy of the report, or if you have any other questions relating to the inquiry, please contact the Committee on (03) 8682 2851 or vplrc@parliament.vic.gov.au.

Terms of Reference

Referred by the Legislative Assembly on 1 March 2007.

To the Law Reform Committee — for inquiry, consideration and report no later than 4 December 2008 on the effect of vexatious litigants on the justice system and the individuals and agencies who are victims of vexatious litigants — and, the Committee should:

  1. inquire into the effectiveness of current legislative provisions in dealing with vexatious litigants;
  2. make recommendations which better enable the courts to more efficiently and effectively perform their role while preserving the community's general right of access to the Victorian courts.

Submissions

The following submissions were accepted by the Law Reform Committee:

  1. pdf Law Institute of Victoria, 7 September 2007 - pdf 139.01 Kb
    pdf Law Institute of Victoria - supplementary submission, 27 June 2008 - pdf 227.86 Kb
    pdf Law Institute of Victoria - supplementary submission, 15 September 2008 - pdf 557.28 Kb
  2. Confidential
  3. pdf Mr John Arnott, 19 May 2008 - pdf 166.94 Kb
  4. pdf Mr Kevin Davies, 21 May 2008 - pdf 245.19 Kb
  5. pdf Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria), 4 June 2008 - pdf 97.97 Kb
  6. pdf Dr Matthew Groves, 6 June 2008 - pdf 78.42 Kb
  7. pdf G. Lloyd-Smith, 12 June 2008 - pdf 249.16 Kb
  8. pdf The Victorian Bar, 17 June 2008 - pdf 447.65 Kb
  9. pdf Melbourne City Council, 18 June 2008 - pdf 89.61 Kb
  10. pdf Judge Misso, 18 June 2008 - pdf 394.25 Kb
  11. pdf Office of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner, 19 June 2008 - pdf 103.18 Kb
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  13. pdf Dr Grant Lester, 26 June 2008 - pdf 7.29 Mb
  14. pdf Mr Julian Knight, 24 June 2008 - pdf 126.94 Kb
  15. pdf Wellington Shire Council, 26 June 2008 - pdf 400.63 Kb
  16. pdf State Revenue Office, 26 June 2008 - pdf 583.89 Kb
  17. pdf Office of Police Integrity, 26 June 2008 - pdf 543.32 Kb
  18. pdf Commonwealth Bank of Australia, 26 June 2008 - pdf 1.33 Mb
    pdf Commonwealth Bank of Australia attachments file 1 - pdf 2.25 Mb
    pdf Commonwealth Bank of Australia attachments file 2 - pdf 1023.27 Kb
    pdf Commonwealth Bank of Australia attachments file 3 - pdf 4.78 Mb
    pdf Commonwealth Bank of Australia attachments file 4 - pdf 370.44 Kb
  19. pdf Mr Darryl O'Bryan, 26 June 2008 - pdf 172.85 Kb
  20. pdf Australian Bankers' Association, 27 June 2008 - pdf 42.35 Kb
  21. pdf Mr Simon Smith, 27 June 2008 - pdf 1.04 Mb
  22. pdf Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions, 27 June 2008 - pdf 250.71 Kb
  23. pdf Foster's Group Limited, 27 June 2008 - pdf 222.47 Kb
  24. pdf Disability Discrimination Legal Service Inc, 27 June 2008 - pdf 290.72 Kb
  25. pdf Disability Services Commissioner, 27 June 2008 - pdf 238.10 Kb
  26. pdf Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 30 June 2008 - pdf 88.41 Kb
  27. pdf Public Transport Ombudsman of Victoria, 30 June 2008 - pdf 187.21 Kb
    pdf PTOV 2007 Annual Report - pdf 824.55 Kb
    pdf An introduction to the Public Transport Ombudsman brochure - pdf 167.65 Kb
  28. pdf Ms Maartje Van-der-Vlies, 30 June 2008 - pdf 182.68 Kb
  29. pdf Telstra Corporation Limited, 1 July 2008 - pdf 337.77 Kb
  30. pdf Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria, 1 July 2008 128.38 Kb
  31. pdf Public Interest Law Clearing House and Human Rights Law Resource Centre, 1 July 2008 - pdf 2.69 Mb
    pdf Public Interest Law Clearing House - supplementary submission, 3 October 2008 - pdf 197.58 Kb
  32. pdf Corrections Victoria, 1 July 2008 - pdf 359.80 Kb
  33. pdf Victoria Legal Aid, 1 July 2008 - pdf 142.20 Kb
    pdf Victoria Legal Aid - supplementary submission, 15 September 2008 - pdf 175.22 Kb
  34. pdf Supreme Court of Victoria, 1 July 2008 - pdf 412.23 Kb
  35. pdf Australian Corporate Lawyers Association, 1 July 2008 - pdf 96.21 Kb
  36. pdf Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, 2 July 2008 - pdf 511.10 Kb
  37. pdf Magistrates' Court of Victoria, 2 July 2008 - pdf 121.47 Kb
  38. pdf Women's Legal Service Victoria, 4 July 2008 - pdf 198.54 Kb
  39. pdf Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic), 7 July 2008 - pdf 337.89 Kb
  40. pdf Mental Health Legal Centre Inc, 8 July 2008 - pdf 611.27 Kb
  41. pdf Health Services Commissioner, 9 July 2008 - pdf 4.91 Mb
  42. pdf Institute of Legal Executives (Victoria), 10 July 2008 - pdf 118.31 Kb
  43. pdf Fitzroy Legal Service Inc, 11 July 2008 - pdf 1016.39 Kb
  44. pdf EPA Victoria, 14 July 2008 - pdf 181.16 Kb
  45. pdf Ombudsman Victoria, 17 July 2008 - pdf 393.79 Kb
    pdf Fact sheet 11: Tips for making a complaint to a Victorian public sector agency - pdf 1016.17 Kb
    pdf Complaint Handling Good Practice Guide - pdf 517.57 Kb
    pdf Unreasonable Complainant Conduct - Interim practice manual - pdf 185.35 Kb
  46. pdf Darebin Community Legal Centre, 18 July 2008 - pdf 1.42 Mb
  47. pdf Victoria Police, 29 July 2008 - pdf 205.15 Kb
  48. pdf Victorian WorkCover Authority, 29 July 2008 - pdf 606.36 Kb

This inquiry is complete. No further submissions will be accepted.

Media Releases

Parliamentary Committee calls for new approach to vexatious litigants

From Mr Johan Scheffer MLC, Chair
4 December 2008

The Victorian Parliament’s Law Reform Committee today released a report calling for a new approach to vexatious litigants in Victoria’s justice system.

The Chair of the Committee Mr Johan Scheffer MLC said that, “access to the courts is an important part of Victoria’s democracy. But a minority of people repeatedly bring legal proceedings that have no merit. Sometimes they sue different people. Sometimes they sue the same people over the same issues again and again.”

“Victoria introduced specific laws to deal with vexatious litigants in 1928. The Supreme Court can make an order stopping a vexatious litigant from continuing or commencing legal proceedings without leave. This power has been used only 15 times in Victoria in the last 80 years.”

“Some other states and territories have reformed their vexatious litigant laws in recent years,” Mr Scheffer said. “Yet the Committee found there was very little available information about vexatious litigants, how many there are in Victoria’s justice system and why they start to behave this way.”

The Committee heard evidence from judges, magistrates, tribunal members, court staff, the legal profession, community legal groups, psychiatrists, government agencies, local councils, businesses and members of the community.

“Many participants told the Committee there are relatively few people who might be called vexatious litigants in Victoria, but they can have a significant financial and emotional impact on people they come into contact with,” Mr Scheffer said.

“The Committee found current laws have not always dealt with the problem effectively. They are seen as a drastic sanction of last resort reserved for the most extreme cases. They are rarely used and, even when they are used, they do not stop vexatious litigants in every case.”

The Committee made 32 recommendations aimed at preventing and managing vexatious litigants in the justice system where possible, and restricting access to the courts only in serious cases. They include:

  • development of case management strategies in courts and tribunals for dealing with vexatious litigants
  • more training and guidance for judges, magistrates, tribunal members, court staff and lawyers about how to deal with vexatious litigants
  • strengthening the courts’ powers to deal with vexatious legal proceedings on a case by case basis
  • a new flexible, graduated system of ‘litigation limitation orders’, similar to laws operating in the United Kingdom, which regulate litigants’ access to the courts according to the seriousness of their behaviour
  • more community information about the new laws
  • evaluation of the new laws after five years to assess their effectiveness and their impact on access to justice.

“The Committee has tried to strike a fair balance between democratic rights of access to the courts, and the need to protect the justice system and members of the community from repeated unmeritorious litigation,” Mr Scheffer said.

The Victorian Government has six months to table its response to the Committee’s recommendations in the Parliament.

A copy of the Committee’s report can be obtained from the Committee’s website http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/lawreform or by contacting the Committee on 8682 2851.

For further information or comment contact Ms Kerryn Riseley, Executive Officer, Victorian Parliament Law Reform Committee: 8682 2850

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Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into Vexatious Litigants

From Mr Johan Scheffer MLC, Chair
28 April 2008

The Victorian Parliament's Law Reform Committee today called for public submissions to its inquiry into vexatious litigants.

The Chair of the Committee Mr Johan Scheffer MLC said that, “The right of people to go to court is important in a democratic society like Victoria, but some people appear to abuse this right.”

“ Victoria introduced laws to deal with vexatious litigants in 1928. The Supreme Court can declare a person a vexatious litigant if it is satisfied that the person has habitually, persistently and without any reasonable ground brought vexatious legal proceedings. The Court can make an order stopping the person from continuing or bringing legal proceedings unless they get leave first.”

“Only 14 people have been declared vexatious litigants in Victoria since the laws were introduced,” Mr Scheffer said.

“Some other states and territories have changed their laws in recent years so the Committee's inquiry is timely.”

“The Committee will be examining whether Victoria's current laws are effective in dealing with vexatious litigants, as well as with the effect of vexatious litigants on the justice system and the people and agencies they sue.”

“The Committee will also be looking at ways to enable the courts to perform their role more efficiently and effectively, while at the same time preserving the community's general right of access to Victoria's courts.”

The Committee has released an issues paper for public comment.

“The Committee wants to hear from people who have dealt with vexatious litigants, or have an interest in these issues,” Mr Scheffer said.

The closing date for submissions to the Committee is 27 June 2008 . The Committee is due to table its final report in the Parliament by 4 December 2008 .

A copy of the Committee's issues paper can be obtained from the Committee's website http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/lawreform or by contacting the Committee on 8682 2851.

For further information or comment contact Ms Kerryn Riseley, Executive Officer, Victorian Parliament Law Reform Committee: (03) 8682 2850

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Hearings and Transcripts

The Committee may invite witnesses to a public hearing, to make representations directly to the members of the Committee and to answer questions put by the Committee. This allows the Committee to follow up points of interest and concern and often lets people who have made a submission amplify points and give additional information.

Public hearings are recorded and a transcript of evidence prepared, to ensure that the Committee has an accurate record of proceedings.

Following is the program of past public hearings and the transcripts of evidence given for the Inquiry into Vexatious Litigants. Hearings were held on:

Transcripts of evidence

6 August 2008 - Room G1, 55 St Andrews Place, East Melbourne

  1. pdf Mr Simon Smith, Solicitor and PhD candidate, Monash University - pdf 73.60 Kb
  2. pdf Law Institute of Victoria - pdf 59.69 Kb
    Ms Irene Chrisafis, Lawyer, Litigation Lawyers Section, Law Institute of Victoria
    Mr Mark Yorsten, Consultant, Wisewould Lawyers
    Ms Mimi Marcus, Associate, Maddocks
  3. pdf The Victorian Bar - pdf 49.21 Kb
    Mr Greg Garde QC, Chair, Victorian Bar Law Reform Committee
    Mr Tony O'Donoghue, Member, Victorian Bar Law Reform Committee
    Mr Franz Holzer, Member, Victorian Bar Law Reform Committee
  4. pdf Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health - pdf 87.32 Kb
    Dr Grant Lester, Forensic Psychiatrist
    Professor Paul Mullen, Professor of Forensic Psychiatry, Department of Psychological Medicine, Monash University
  5. pdf Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission - pdf 47.82 Kb
    Mr Matthew Carroll, Acting Chief Executive Officer
    Mr Chris Thwaites, Manager, Investigation and Conciliation Unit
  6. pdf Darebin Community Legal Centre - pdf 57.12 Kb
    Ms Donna Williamson, Prison Outreach Worker
    Mr Cameron Shilton, Community Legal Education Worker
  7. pdf Office of Public Prosecutions - pdf 47.60 Kb
    Mr Peter Byrne, Principal Solicitor, Policy & Advice Section

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13 August 2008 - Room G1, 55 St Andrews Place, East Melbourne

  1. pdf Wellington Shire Council - pdf 40.97 Kb
    Mr Jim Wilson, Director, Corporate Services
  2. pdf Women's Legal Service Victoria - pdf 48.16 Kb
    Ms Penny Drysdale, Law Reform and Policy Lawyer
    Ms Sarah Vessali, former Principal Lawyer
  3. pdf Commonwealth Bank of Australia - pdf 44.59 Kb
    Mr Ross Thomson, Legal Officer
    Mr Grant Dewar, Legal Officer
  4. pdf Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) and Human Rights Law Resource Centre (HRLRC) - pdf 54.56 Kb
    Ms Kristen Hilton, Executive Director, PILCH
    Ms Michelle Panayi, Manager, Law Institute Legal Assistance Scheme, PILCH
    Mr Ben Schokman, Human Rights Lawyer, HRLRC
  5. pdf Mental Health Legal Centre - pdf 45.29 Kb
    Mr Martin Thomas, Policy Officer
  6. pdf Federation of Community Legal Centres - pdf 69.17 Kb
    Dr Christine Atmore, Policy Officer
    Mr Charandev Singh, Human Rights and Advocacy Worker, Brimbank Melton Community Legal Centre
  7. pdf NSW Ombudsman - pdf 61.29 Kb
    Mr Chris Wheeler, Deputy Ombudsman
  8. pdf Professor Tania Sourdin, Professor of Conflict Resolution, University of Queensland - pdf 57.84 Kb

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6 October 2008 - Room G8, 55 St Andrews Place, East Melbourne

  1. pdf Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) - pdf 42.29 Kb
    Justice Kevin Bell, President

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  1. Papers and Reports