For the vast majority of clients a divorce is an unpleasant experience. Most clients divorce as fast as possible, execute a settlement agreement, and put the agreement away in a drawer and never look at it again.
However, for a small minority, the actual divorce is just the warm-up for many years of long, protracted litigation. Post-divorce, some people file multiple motions against each other for every perceived infraction of their separation agreement or judgment of divorce. As soon as one motion is settled, the next motion is filed.
It is a firmly held belief that everyone should have “free access to the court to seek redress from any dispute for which a court may provide relief.” However, if a person abuses the court system and engages in “vexatious litigation” by filing multiple motions against the same person, or filing repeat motions for the same form of relief, even after the court has time and time again declared that the issues were already litigated and decided, the court, in its discretion, may forbid a litigant from engaging in any further applications or motion practice without first seeking permission from the court.
This is what happened in the case Lew v. Sobel, 2017 NY Slip Op 05076 (App. Div, 2nd Dept June 2017). In the Lew case, both parties began litigation against each other beginning in 2003. From 2003 to 2017, the parties continued litigation against each other in the Family Court and the New York Supreme Court.
Having had enough, the plaintiff moved to stop the defendants from “commencing any new litigation against, or engaging in any applications or motion practice in existing actions involving, the plaintiff, his medical practice, his wife and his lawyer without prior written permission of the Supreme Court.”
The New York Supreme Court denied plaintiff’s motion and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal the Appellate division reversed the trial court’s decision and granted plaintiff’s motion. The Appellate court pointed out that the plaintiff himself also engaged in vexatious litigation and based its ruling on plaintiff also ceasing his litigation against defendants.