In re R.H., F055047

In re R.H. (F055047)

California Court of Appeals - Fifth Judicial Circuit - 1/26/2009

Facts and Procedural History

The juvenile court exercised dependency over R.H.'s son in 1999, at which time R.H. was incarcerated. The court found that the child’s mother failed to provide him with adequate food, clothing or shelter on account of her drug abuse. The juvenile court also found the child was at risk of suffering serious emotional damage as a result of exposure to incidents of domestic violence between his parents. The juvenile court consequently terminated services in early 2001 and eventually adopted a permanent plan of long-term foster care for the child.

The instant appeal was filed by R.H., acting in pro per, appealing a February 2008 order granting a continuance of a status review hearing. However, the court noted that in the seven years preceding the filing of the instant appeal, R.H. filed 13 final and unsuccessful appeals and writ petitions. Against that backdrop, the appellate court provided R.H. and his court-appointed appellate attorney with notice of the intention to hold a hearing on the question of whether R.H. is a vexatious litigant within the meaning of Calif. Civil Code section 391.


Is R.H. a vexatious litigant as defined by Calif. Civil Code section 391?


A vexatious litigant is, inter alia, one who:
(1) In the immediately preceding seven-year period has commenced, prosecuted, or maintained in propria persona at least five litigations other than in a small claims court that have been (i) finally determined adversely to the person or (ii) unjustifiably permitted to remain pending at least two years without having been brought to trial or hearing.
(391(b)(1) Calif. Civil Code)


The court found that R.H. clearly meets the definition of a vexatious litigant as described above; he has, in pro per, commenced 13 writ proceedings in the prior 7 years, all of which have been ultimately determined adversely to him. In addition, the court noted that 5 of R.H.'s proceedings were appeals in which there was not even an arguable issue. The court additionally rejected an argument by R.H. that the vexatious litigant statute does not apply to juvenile dependency proceedings


YES, R.H. is a vexatious litigant as defined by 391(b)(1) Calif. Civil Code.


The court entered an order dismissing as abandoned the instant litigation. Additionally, the court entered an order enjoining R.H. from filing any further litigation in any California court without first obtaining the permission of the presiding judge in the court where the litigation is to be filed. The court noted that disobedience of the pre-filing order shall be punished as contempt of court, and that permission to file shall only be granted if it appears the litigation has merit.

The full text of the opinion can be downloaded here: PDF, Word.

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