Friday, April 20

Querulant and the Vexatious Litigants

I have posted before on Querulant and the Vexatious Litigants, here, here and here - so much so I wonder if I am not becoming one?

But this is good stuff from Dr Grant Lester, Consultant Psychiatrist, Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health, Australia.

He recently offered these guidelines for judicial officers, complaints officers, ombudsmen, commissioners, tribunals and courts (sorry, no link).

'They will present with an overflowing suitcase, briefcase or box. They will appear to have pressure of speech such that interrupting them is difficult and they will speak to you as if you already know all the details of the case.


Their speech is vague and full of unnecessary and often confusing and irrelevant detail. Written communications have the appearance of having been written in excitement with numerous notes of exclamation and interrogation. These are often like a legal document except the entire surface is covered with script (including the margins). The substance is repeated in several different ways with undue grammatical emphasis and underlining.

They will often refer to themselves in a third person legalistic style, for example, as “the defendant”. Coloured inks are used for emphasis as are the star asterisk key and the use of capitalisation.

Cut-outs from newspapers, personal diaries and irrelevant materials abound. They will be initially seductive and recruiting, however, if you show any lack of response they rapidly become angry and will speak to you as if you are part of the persecuting opposition.

1. “First: Do No Harm”. A medical aphorism which highlights your goals, which should be safety and containment rather than completion and satisfaction.

2. Recognition via the six V’s — they display volatile emotions, feel victimised, seek vindication, produce voluminous and vague communications, and vary their demands.

3. Maintain rigorous boundaries. They will rapidly form attachments to those they feel are “favouring” them and feel catastrophically betrayed if the favourable treatment is not maintained.

4. They are responsive to hierarchy and the formality of court and it must be maintained.

5. While they may appear legally hyper-competent, they have a very shallow knowledge of the law. All communication with them should be simple, repetitive, and there should be recognition that their understanding of the law is generally no deeper than the average citizen.

6. It is important to clearly and repetitively maintain their focus on what the court is able to offer in terms of outcomes.

7. More time granted will lead to more confusion. They are disorganised and overwhelmed and more time rarely changes this.

8. Take all threats seriously and be aware of the psychological, as well as physical, safety of self and court staff.

9. Any recommendation that they seek psychiatric support or evaluation will lead to extremely angry and potentially threatening responses. The role of psychiatry is generally limited. However, for those individuals who threaten self harm or harm to others, or carry out aggressive behaviour, mandated psychiatric treatment is
important.

10. Never seek to specialise in an individual. Always share the load with others.


Dr Lester's powerpoint here

2 comments:

Tammy said...

Geoff, I had to smile at the reference to an overflowing suitcase, because it brought a flashback to a probate mediation I did a few years ago. About 30 minutes in, one of the parties made a very vexacious comment indeed and the plaintiff's counsel leaned over and began to open a leather case the size of a small filing cabinet (I'm not exaggerating!). As he struggled to open the darn thing I leaned over, put my hand over the latch and said, "Please do not open that case. It'll be like Pandora's box." He looked up at me, frowning, then nodded and said, "Right."

That case never did get opened, though the mediation case opened up and settled nicely. I guess that speaks directly to Dr. Lester's comment on containment! :)

Geoff Sharp said...

Yeah, I seem to notice it most with the highlighting of documents...everything is highlighted and angrily jumps off the page