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Soladigm, Inc. v. Tarng

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 9, 2013

SOLADIGM, INC., Plaintiff(s),
MIN MING TARNG, Defendant(s)


EDWARD J. DAVILA, District Judge.


This action for declaratory judgment, breach of contract, breach of confidential relationship and unfair competition was commenced by Plaintiff Soladigm, Inc.[1] ("Plaintiff") on November 8, 2011. See Docket Item No. 1. A year later, Plaintiff and Defendant Min Ming Tarng ("Defendant") reached a written resolution of all claims at a settlement conference supervised by a magistrate judge. See Docket Item No. 147. But in the end, the parties could not agree to a stipulated dismissal and appeared before this court in order to address that issue. See Docket Item No. 174. After considering the arguments for and against enforcement of the settlement agreement, the court found that it constituted a complete document to which all parties had agreed and, as contemplated in the agreement, dismissed this action with prejudice on December 17, 2012. See Docket Item No. 179.

Unfortunately, the case lives on despite the settlement and dismissal. Indeed, the court has issued five orders in response to eight motions - all filed by Defendant - since January, 2013. See Docket Item Nos. 186, 203, 224, 228, 231. One of those orders warned Defendant that his conduct could result in the imposition of sanctions or his designation as a vexatious litigant. See Docket Item No. 186.

Presently before the court is Plaintiff's motion requesting just that - an order declaring Defendant a vexatious litigant. See Docket Item No. 204. Plaintiff also requests a pre-filing order requiring Defendant to obtain leave of court before filing anything related to this case. Defendant, as would be expected, disagrees with Plaintiff's request in written opposition. See Docket Item No. 209.

Whether Defendant's conduct to this point supports a vexatious declaration is a close question. After careful review, however, the court will find that Defendant's actions have not become vexatious - yet. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion will be denied for the reasons explained below.


Federal courts may subject vexatious litigants to pre-filing orders pursuant to the All Writs Act. See 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a) ("The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law."); see also Moy v. United States , 906 F.2d 467, 469 (9th Cir. 1990) ("[I]t is clear that the district court has authority to issue pre-filing injunctions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1651."). Such orders should not be issued lightly; they are "an extreme remedy that should rarely be used." Molski v. Evergreen Dynasty Corp. , 500 F.3d 1047, 1057 (9th Cir. 2007). "Courts should not enter pre-filing orders with undue haste because such sanctions can tread on a litigant's due process right of access to the courts." Id.

There can come a time, though, when an abusive litigant's right of access must be curtailed by court order so as to control the type of "[f]lagrant abuse of the judicial process" that "enables one person to preempt the use of judicial time that properly could be used to consider the meritorious claims of other litigants." De Long v. Hennessey , 912 F.2d 1144, 1148 (9th Cir. 1990). This can be especially pertinent to individuals proceeding without counsel because "fewer sanctions are available against a pro per litigant." Doran v. Vicorp Rests., Inc. , 407 F.Supp.2d 1115, 1118 (C.D. Cal. 2005). Absent an available means of restraint, such as an order requiring a litigant to obtain leave of court prior to filing documents, some cases may never come to an end.

The Ninth Circuit has articulated factors for the district courts to examine before issuing a pre-filing order:

First, the litigant must be given notice and a chance to be heard before the order is entered. Second, the district court must compile an adequate record for review.' Third, the district court must make substantive findings about the frivolous or harassing nature of the plaintiff's litigation. Finally, the vexatious litigant order must be narrowly tailored to closely fit the specific vice encountered.'

Molski , 500 F.3d at 1057 (quoting De Long , 912 F.2d at 1147-48) (internal citations omitted).


Of the four factors relevant to the issuance of a pre-filing order, it is the third factor requiring substantive findings that is the most important to this analysis. The court ...

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