Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

District Court Rules That Plaintiff Is "Vexatious Litigant"; Dismisses Case

The U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has held that a pre-filing injunction is appropriate in Whitehead v. Paramount Pictures, finding that the plaintiff is "a vexatious litigant."

Courts have the constitutional obligation and the inherent power to protect against conduct that impairs the court's ability to conduct their functions...Where “vexatious conduct hinders the court from fulfilling its constitutional duty,” courts have enjoined individuals from filing without court approval or placed other severe limits on the ability to file new cases....The injunction must not, however, effectively deny access to the courts, and the district court must give the litigant notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to granting the injunction....The factors to be considered in evaluating whether to issue a pre-filing injunction are: (1) the litigant's history of vexatious litigation; (2) whether the litigant has an objective good faith belief in the merit of the action; (3) whether the litigant is represented by counsel; (4) whether the litigant has caused needless expense or unnecessary burdens on the opposing party and/or the court; and (5) the adequacy of other sanctions.
Applying the above factors, the Court finds that a pre-filing injunction is appropriate in this case. As the United States District Court for the District of Maryland concluded, “Plaintiff is clearly a vexatious litigant.” See Viacom, 233 F.Supp.2d at 726. He is subject to pre-filing injunctions in the United States District Courts for the District of Maryland and the District of Columbia and in the District of Columbia Superior Court. See id; Paramount Pictures Corp., 145 F.Supp.2d at 5-6; Wickham, 2005 WL 2874975, at *1. In this case alone, Plaintiff has filed almost one hundred motions or other requests for relief, the majority of which are duplicative of relief previously denied by this court or other courts. Indeed, many of Plaintiff s motions are irrelevant to the pending litigation. For example, in one motion, Plaintiff requested a stay of the proceedings pending the government's release of a memorandum that Plaintiff claims was written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts while he was at the Solicitor General's Office in which Plaintiff claims Chief Justice Roberts “call[ed] the plaintiff a name on several occasions. See Motion to Stay Proceedings, Pending Release of Memorandum (Doc. No. 33). In three other motions, Plaintiff sought a temporary restraining order or other injunctive relief enjoining the “Wall Street bailout matter“ or, in the alternative, “striking] any congressional or executive signing of the bill.“ See Am. Mot. for Injunctive Relief (Doc. No. 18). The nature and content of Plaintiff s filings demonstrate that he cannot have an objective good faith belief in the merit of the action. Plaintiffs numerous lawsuits and motions burden not only the courts, but the defendants named in the filings. As Judge Friedman stated, “Mr. Whitehead has no regard for our judicial system or the drain on its resources caused by his actions.” Paramount Pictures Corp., 145 F.Supp.2d at 5. Indeed, three of the Defendants filed memorandums in support of the Court's Order to Show Cause. See Mem. in Supp. of Order to PI. to Show Cause (Doc. No. 402); Mem. in Supp. of the Court's Order to Show Cause (Doc. No. 403). Finally, it is apparent that the imposition of other sanctions, such as monetary sanctions, will not provide adequate relief. Other courts including the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit imposed sanctions on Plaintiff or awarded attorney's fees to defendants without substantial deterrent effect. Other courts imposing pre-filing limitations on Mr. Whitehead have concluded that “[considering plaintiffs history with the courts … there is no reason to believe any other form of sanctions will cease plaintiffs filing of motions in this case or the initiation of new cases.” Wickham, 2005 WL 2874975, at *4. This Court therefore concludes that a pre-filing injunction appears to be the only means to adequately protect this Court's ability to function.
Accordingly, for the reasons stated above and for the reasons stated in open court on May 22, 2009, Plaintiff is hereby enjoined from filing any new civil actions in the Eastern District of Virginia and from filing any new motions, papers or requests for relief in any civil actions currently pending in the Eastern District of Virginia without seeking and obtaining court approval as set forth in this Court's Order dated May 22, 2009.
The case is Whitehead v. Paramount Pictures Corp., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44259; 2009 WL 1491402 (E.D.Va.); 37 Med. L. Rptr. 1802 (2009), decided May 26.
In a case decided May 28 of this year, bsequent case, the court dismissed the plaintiff's causes of action against the defendants for "1) race discrimination, (2) employment discrimination, (3) retaliation, (4) free speech discrimination or retaliation, (5) defamation, (6) breach of contract, (7) breach of trust, (8) breach of confidence, (9) antitrust violations, (10) unfair competition, (11) copyright violations, (12) conspiracy, (13) civil violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, (14) violations of privacy, (15) misappropriation of intellectual property, and (16) bad-faith dealing." The court ruled that
[T]he facts alleged in the Complaint are both fantastic and delusional. For example, one of Plaintiff s allegations involves what he calls a “broad base conspiracy” to steal unidentified “intellectual properties.” Compl. at 3. To this end, he alleges merely that all of the defendants in this action “are inter-connected holding business contracts for joint business purposes.” Id. at 6.
The majority of his other allegations involve successful movies. For example, Plaintiff alleges that the film “Quantum of Solace,” involving the character James Bond, infringed Plaintiffs un-specified copyrights because “Plaintiff created a character named Mrs. James Bond, who revenges her husband's death [and,] in Quantum of Solace, James Bond revenges his lover's death.” Id. at 13.
Plaintiff also claims that an unidentified defendant infringed on his “robbery scene” to create the film “Inside Man” because “defendants use [sic] a verbatim line,” “This ain't no robbery,” taken from Plaintiffs line “This ain't no robbery, this is politics!” Id. at 10. Plaintiff also asserts that the film “The Dark Knight” infringes on his work “Batman Blackman” because both use the Joker character for a hostage plot and because the titles are similar (“Dark” versus “Black”). Id. at 14. Finally, he states that “[t]he Academy Awards recently pulled “The Dark Knight“ based on this infringement for possible nomination for Best Picture.” Id. He also believes that “the Academy did the same with ‘Dreamgirls’ once the Academy learned that Dreamgirls was an infringed version of the plaintiffs Aretha Franklin materials.” Id.
In another allegation, Plaintiff states that an issue of Vogue Italy, entitled “A Black Issue” and portraying all black models in its pages, infringed on his copyrights because it “was based on Plaintiffs Black Beauty booklet, depicting all black supermodels for Victoria Secrets [sic].” Id. at 10. He further states that Vogue sold “A Black Issue” in “a limited edition from abroad, attempting to conceal the theft from the plaintiff.” Id. Plaintiffs allegations are clearly fanciful and delusional on their face.
The facts and legal claims set forth in the Complaint are virtually identical to those made by Plaintiff in cases that have been repeatedly dismissed by other courts, including the courts of this district. They are frivolous and, in keeping with Plaintiffs typical modus operandi, appear to be made for the purpose of harassing the defendants into entering into a nuisance settlement. See, e.g., Whiteheadv. Wickham, No. 15207-04, Mem. Order, at 48 n.177 (D.C. Super. Ct. Mar. 31, 2005) (“It is evident to this Court that Whitehead is either, at best, a dealer in Mitigation futures,’ or at worst a ‘litigation extortionist.’ Neither approach should be tolerated under the Rules of Civil Procedure.”).
The Court finds that this action is frivolous and malicious, and that it fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. Accordingly, Plaintiffs Complaint, filed in forma pauperis, must be dismissed in its entirety pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and 28 U.S.C. § 5 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
The case is Whitehead v. Paramount Pictures Corp., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44838; 2009 WL 1565639 (E.D.Va.); 37 Med.L.Rptr. 1806.

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