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Kaighn v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 11, 2017

JANIS KAIGHN and GREGORY KAIGHN, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          ORDER

         Gregory R. Kaighn, an attorney, brought this case against the United States on behalf of himself and Janis Kaighn in September 2016, to “end the insidious Dictatorship imposed on the United States of America and the American people.” Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1. On November 3, 2016, the court dismissed the case sua sponte for failure to state a claim and failure to establish the court's jurisdiction. Order, ECF No. 45. After concluding the complaint was “frivolous, ” id. at 2, the court further ordered plaintiffs to show cause why they should not be declared “vexatious litigants” under California law, which permits sanctions in such instances, and why Mr. Kaighn should not be subject to sanctions under Rule 11, id. at 6-7. Plaintiffs timely responded to the order to show cause. Resp. Order Show Cause (Resp.), ECF No. 50. The court submitted the matter without hearing. Min. Order, ECF No. 58.

         For the following reasons, the court DECLARES Mr. Kaighn, but not Ms. Kaighn, a “vexatious litigant.” The court further SANCTIONS Mr. Kaighn under Rule 11 for his role as the acting attorney in this case.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Court's Prior Order

         In its prior order dismissing the complaint, the court discussed in detail plaintiffs' claims in this case. The court briefly reviews that prior ruling here.

         Plaintiffs filed the complaint on September 6, 2016, alleging that the duly-elected government of the United States has been overthrown by the “Roosevelt Dictatorship” with the assistance of the British Monarchy, the Rothschild Central Bankers, and the Illuminati. See generally Compl. Plaintiffs asserted “[t]he entire United States government has gone completely dark” and, accordingly, sought rescission of the United States Constitution, a Constitutional Convention, a declaration that a list of federal statutes are unconstitutional, the imposition of a constructive trust over the United States, and the appointment of a receiver “to take custody, manage, and protect the assets of the United States, the federal government and the Federal Reserve for the benefit of the American people.” Id. ¶¶ 83, 105-108.

         As the court explained in its prior order, the complaint largely consisted of conspiracy-laden political pronouncements. Order 2; see, e.g., Compl. ¶ 1 (“This case will end the insidious Dictatorship imposed on the United States and the American people”); id. ¶ 2 (“Opposing the Rothschild Bankers, the British Monarchy, and the Illuminati has been very deadly for American Presidents”); id. ¶ 3 (“[T]he September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States were an ‘inside job'”); id. ¶ 14 (Theodore Roosevelt “fundamentally believed in rule by one person dictatorship”); id. ¶ 15 (“General Albert Pike was the ‘puppet master' for the Illuminati in America”); id. ¶ 19 (“Franklin D. Roosevelt's rule over the American people officially began on March 9, 1933 and his dictatorship is still in place today”); id.¶ 23 (“Eleanor Roosevelt is the most corrupt politician in history and the worst of the Roosevelt family ‘axis of evil'”); id.¶ 25 (“The Social Security Act is part of the terrorist plan and part of the New World Order”); id.¶ 38 (“The Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Party both meet the organizational tests of a ‘communist party' and must forfeit all right to exist as a matter of law”); id. ¶ 47 (“The duly elected government of the United States has been overthrown by the Roosevelt Dictatorship”); id. ¶ 63 (“NASA has been ‘experimenting' with creating or enhancing ‘natural disasters' for decades”); id. ¶ 80 (“We attempted to contact the Obama Administration many times regarding the theft of our personal identification materials and the many acts of violence that the terrorists had perpetrated against us personally”); id. ¶ 82 (“Court clerks cancel court hearings and decide the cases themselves”); id. ¶ 95 (“The rapture of the Roman Catholic Church occurred in 2005”).

         Reviewing the complaint, the court found at least two separate grounds for dismissal. Order 4-6. First, the complaint provided no basis for finding the United States' consented to be sued or otherwise waived sovereign immunity. Id. at 5-6. Accordingly, the court found dismissal appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of jurisdiction. Id. at 6. Second, the court concluded the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Id. In so deciding, the court explained the complaint “fail[ed] to allege any legal claims supported by factual allegations, or any relief this court has authority to grant.” Id. The court dismissed the entire complaint on both of these grounds, and described the suit as “completely frivolous.” Id. at 6.

         After considering the frivolity of the complaint, in addition to the fact that at least four other courts had recently dismissed actions brought by these same two plaintiffs, in some cases on the express basis of frivolity, [1] the court further ordered plaintiffs to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed. More specifically, the court instructed plaintiffs to show cause why they should not be declared “vexatious litigants” under California law. Id. at 7 (citing, inter alia, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 391). A vexatious litigant is generally a “persistent and obsessive litigant[] who, repeatedly litigating the same issues through groundless actions, waste[s] the time and resources of the court system and other litigants.” Shalant v. Girardi, 51 Cal. 4Th 1164, 1169 (2011). The court noted corresponding “vexatious litigant” sanctions could include: (1) entering a pre-filing order that limits the filing of new cases; (2) requiring security be posted to maintain cases; (3) limiting the number of pending motions plaintiffs may maintain in a single case; (4) imposing monetary sanctions; and (5) revoking plaintiffs' online filing privileges. Id. The court further notified Mr. Kaighn, as counsel of record in the case, he may be subject to sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. Id.

         B. Procedural History

         Though the docket is expansive, the procedural history of this case is brief. Plaintiffs filed the complaint on September 6, 2016, the United States moved to dismiss on October 6, 2016, ECF No. 13, and the court ultimately dismissed the complaint sua sponte on November 3, 2016 without reaching the merits of the United States' motion.[2] Plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration of that decision, ECF No. 45, which the court denied on November 21, 2016, ECF No. 51.

         In the interim, and even after dismissal of the complaint, plaintiffs filed various motions, notices, statements, requests, and an application. See ECF Nos. 10, 15, 21, 32 (motions); ECF Nos. 8-9, 11-12, 15, 19, 22-23, 29-31, 40-41, 43, 48, 51, 59 (notices); ECF Nos. 7, 37, 53-54, 56 (statements); ECF Nos. 14, 28, 38, 57 (requests); ECF No. 42 (application). Many of these filings were duplicative or were not pertinent to issues before the court. See, e.g., ECF No. 32 (“EX PARTE MOTION for the Immediate Involvement of President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump”); ECF No. 29 (“Notice of Demand For the Arrest of Courtroom Deputy D. Streeter”); ECF No. 56 (“STATEMENT of the Stench of Corruption form Arizona to Sacramento”); ECF No. 53 (“STATEMENT of WHEN IS OUR SON COMING HOME? ANSWER THE QUESTION PLEASE”); ECF No. 42 (“APPLICATION for the arrest of Donald John Trump”). Other filings were improperly noticed for hearing or failed to follow other local rules. See, e.g., Min. Order, ECF No. 20 (denying plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment for failure to comply with local rules requiring parties to meet and confer); Am. Min. Order, ECF No. 27 (denying plaintiffs' requests for failure to comply with various local rules, including those regarding ex parte applications). Even after the court dismissed the complaint, took the current matter under submission, and further ordered plaintiffs to not file any more motions or notices, plaintiffs filed yet another unrelated notice. See Notice, ECF No. 59. Mr. Kaighn signed all of these filings as the attorney for plaintiffs.

         In addition to plaintiffs' numerous filings, Mr. Kaighn has sent many e-mails to the court's official e-mail address, each of which the court has docketed. See Clerk's Notice, ECF No. 55. The subject lines of those e-mails reveal their nature as unrelated and, in some instances, wholly inappropriate: (1) 10/6/16 Email “Re: explain this please”, (2) 10/14/16 Email “The Last Two Orders Are Garbage 16-cv-02117”, (3) 10/14/16 Email “This is a Death Penalty Case”, (4) 10/14/16 Email “Streeter Has Been Sued”, (5) 10/14/16 Email “I'll sue you next”, (6) 10/14/16 Email “16-cv-02458 Kaighn v. Streeter, summons, complaint, civil case documents”, (7) 11/9/16 Email “16-2370 (Kaighn v. Apple) The Kidnapping of Garrett Kaighn”, (8) 11/9/16 Email “Re: 16-2370 (Kaighn v. Apple) The Kidnapping of Garrett Kaighn”, (9) 11/9/16 Email “Our Prior Motion Re: President Obama”, (10) 11/9/16 Email “The Constitutional Crisis is Real and it is Here”, (11) 11/9/16 Email “How Convenient is This Timing”, (12) 11/9/16 Email “The Kidnapping of Garrett Richard Kaighn (16-02117 and 16-02227)”, (13) 11/9/16 Email “The Kidnapping of Garrett Richard Kaighn (16-02117 and 16-02227)”, (14) 11/9/16 Email “The Kidnapping of Garrett Richard Kaighn (16-02117 and 16-02227)”, (15) 11/9/16 Email “Lets Talk About a Fixed Election Shall We”, (16) 11/9/16 Email “Lets Talk About a Fixed Election Shall We (#2)”, (17) 11/10/16 Email “The Kidnapping of Garrett Richard Kaighn (16-02117 and 16-02227)”, (18) 11/10/16 Email “The Kidnapping of Garrett Richard Kaighn (16-02117 and 16-02227)”, (19) 11/17/16 Email “This country is in your hands, Judge Mueller's hands and our hands”, (20) 11/21/16 Email “The Kidnapping of Garrett Richard Kaighn (16-8083, 16-02117, and 16-02227)”. Id.[3]

         Plaintiffs filed their response to the order to show cause on November 17, 2016. Below, the court considers whether to sanction the Kaighns under California's “vexatious litigant” law and whether to further sanction Mr. Kaighn in his capacity as an attorney under Rule 11.

         II. VEXATIOUS LITIGANTS

         The Ninth Circuit has acknowledged the “inherent power of federal courts to regulate the activities of abusive litigants by imposing carefully tailored restrictions under the appropriate circumstances.” De Long v. Hennessey, 912 F.2d 1144, 1146 (9th Cir. 1990); see also Molski v. Evergreen Dynasty Corp., 500 F.3d 1047 (9th Cir. 2007). More specifically, the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a), provides district courts with the inherent power to enter pre-filing orders against vexatious litigants. Weissman v. Quail Lodge Inc., 179 F.3d 1194, 1197 (9th Cir. 1999). Such pre-filing orders “are an extreme remedy that should rarely be used, ” as they can “tread on a litigant's due process right of access to the courts.” Molski, 500 F.3d at 1057. Accordingly, the Ninth Circuit has outlined four requirements before a district court may enter a pre-filing order: (1) the litigant must be given notice and a chance to be heard before the order is entered; (2) the district court must compile “an adequate record for review”; (3) the district court must make substantive findings about the frivolous or harassing nature of the plaintiff's litigation; and (4) the vexatious litigant order “must be narrowly tailored to closely fit the specific vice encountered.” Id. (citing De Long, 912 F.2d at 1147-48). The Ninth Circuit has characterized the first two requirements as procedural considerations and the latter two as substantive considerations. Id.

         Although the court's inherent power to issue appropriate sanctions provides an important backdrop, this order focuses primarily on a statutory basis for sanctions under California law. Specifically, the Eastern District's Local Rule 151(b) adopts California's “vexatious litigant” laws. See LR 151(b) (adopting Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §§ 391-391.8). The Ninth Circuit has suggested the court's “vexatious litigant” determination under California law is subject to the corresponding state statutory requirements, but not to the aforementioned requirements for the court's exercise of its inherent powers under De Long. See Russell v. Thompson, 94 F.3d 652 (9th Cir. 1996) (affirming vexatious litigant determination under California law without reference to De Long requirements); Sanders v. CleanNet of S. California, Inc., 135 Fed. App'x 936, 938 (9th Cir. 2005) (same). On the other hand, in at least one unpublished case, the Ninth Circuit has subjected a “vexatious litigant” determination under California law to the same requirements as in De Long. See Tyler v. Knowles, 481 Fed. App'x 355, 356 (9th Cir. 2012) (reversing trial court's vexatious litigant determination under California law for the court's failure to comply with procedural De Long requirements). Thus, although the court proceeds on the basis of its local rule and state statutory law below, the court also considers each of the requirements of De Long.

         A. California's Vexatious Litigant Law

         California's vexatious litigant law, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §§ 391-391.8, was “designed to curb misuse of the court system by those persistent and obsessive litigants who, repeatedly litigating the same issues through groundless actions, waste the time and resources of the court system and other litigants.” Shalant, 51 Cal.4th at 1169. The statute “provide[s] courts and nonvexatious litigants with two distinct and complementary sets of remedies.” Id. at 270. First, in pending litigation, a plaintiff may be declared a vexatious litigant and, if the plaintiff has no reasonable probability of prevailing, ordered to furnish security. Id. (citing Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §§ 391.1-391.6). Under the statute, “security” means “an undertaking to assure payment . . . of the party's reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees . . . incurred in or in connection with a litigation instituted . . . by a vexatious litigant.” Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 391. If the plaintiff fails to furnish the security, the action will be dismissed. Id. Second, the court may impose a pre- filing order that prevents a plaintiff from filing any new case in propria persona. Id. (citing Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 391.7). If a plaintiff subject to a pre-filing order somehow manages to file a new case in propria persona without the presiding judge's permission, the case may be dismissed. Id. Once the court declares someone a “vexatious litigant, ” the designation is reported to the state Judicial Council, which maintains a list of “vexatious litigants.” Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 391.7(f); see also Vexatious Litigant List, available at http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/vexlit.pdf.

         The statute defines “vexatious litigant” to mean “a person who does any of the following:

(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.
(2) After a litigation has been finally determined against the person, repeatedly relitigates or attempts to relitigate, in propria persona, either (i) the validity of the determination against the same defendant or defendants as to whom the litigation was finally determined or (ii) the cause of action, claim, controversy, or any of the issues of fact or law, determined or concluded by the final determination against the same defendant or defendants as to whom the litigation was finally determined.
(3) In any litigation while acting in propria persona, repeatedly files unmeritorious motions, pleadings, or other papers, conducts unnecessary discovery, or engages in other tactics that are frivolous or solely intended to cause unnecessary delay.
(4) Has previously been declared to be a vexatious litigant by any state or federal court of record in any action or proceeding based upon the same or substantially ...

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