New laws to stop vexatious litigants now in force

• New laws will reduce unjustified and costly claims brought by vexatious litigants
• Courts and VCAT now have greater power to block vexatious litigants
• Napthine Government improving the justice system

New laws to limit unjustified and costly claims brought by vexatious litigants have come into force today.

Attorney-General Robert Clark said the new, more effective regime to control and prevent vexatious litigation in Victoria’s courts and tribunals would help stop frivolous claims against individuals, businesses and governments.

“Vexatious litigants can take up a lot of court and tribunal time and resources for no good reason, causing cost and delays and forcing other people to have to wait longer to get their cases heard,” Mr Clark said.

“These changes will make it easier for the courts and VCAT to put a hold on those who persistently waste other people’s time and money with unjustified claims.”

Mr Clark said the new laws are based on key recommendations made by the Victorian Parliamentary Law Reform Committee in 2008, which the former government had shelved.

At present, a person can only be declared a vexatious litigant by the Supreme Court on application of the Attorney-General and it requires proof of a long history of vexatious litigation before an application can succeed.

The new laws allow the courts and VCAT to make a range of orders, from prohibiting someone from bringing further applications or appeals in a particular case, to prohibiting them bringing any further proceedings against a particular party or about a particular issue, through to a complete ban on any further legal proceedings without permission from the court.

The new laws also ensure that the courts and VCAT can take into account the person’s conduct of litigation in Victoria and other Australian jurisdictions both before and after the commencement of the new Act.

“Under these reforms, a victim of vexatious litigation will be able to apply directly to the relevant court or VCAT to seek an order to put a stop to vexatious claims against them, meaning the vexatious litigation can be stopped more quickly and with less cost,” Mr Clark said.

Mr Clark said the changes will also mean that people with orders made against them will find it harder to lodge repeated appeals against those orders or to start further court proceedings.

“Another key part of the reforms is that once an order has been made against a vexatious litigant, there are much better protections against them simply making repeated applications to the court for permission to bring further proceedings.

“Where someone wants to seek permission to bring proceedings to which a litigation restraint order applies, they will have to lodge a detailed written application.

“The relevant court or tribunal will have power to decide that leave application based solely on the written application, meaning the vexatious litigant can no longer get yet another day in court to make an application.”

Under the legislation, a range of litigation restraint orders can be imposed on civil or criminal proceedings in a Victorian court or tribunal.

A ‘limited litigation restraint order’ will be able to restrict further applications in a particular case. An ‘extended litigation restraint order’ will be able prevent a person bringing any further proceedings against a particular party or about a particular subject matter.

The Supreme Court on application of the Attorney-General will also continue to be able to make an order – now called a ‘general litigation restraint order’ – to prevent any further legal proceeding by a person in any Victorian Court or tribunal.

If a ‘general litigation restraint order’ is made, no further proceedings will be able to be brought without leave (permission) from the Supreme Court or the relevant court or tribunal to do so.

A court or VCAT will also be able to make an order against someone acting in concert with a person subject to a litigation restraint order, including where a person tries to circumvent an order against them by starting litigation in the name of a corporation they control.

“In framing this legislation, we have considered the rights of individuals to access the courts, the rights of the community to be protected against vexatious litigation, and the public interest in having an efficient and effective justice system. This legislation achieves the right balance,” Mr Clark said.