Vexatious litigant and attorney sanctioned for filing frivolous anti-SLAPP appeal
California’s anti-SLAPP law recently assisted in giving some closure to a defendant who had been battling with a vexatious litigant in California courts for the past ten years.
The dispute began back in 2005 when Lipworth (the defendant in the present case) was assigned a six figure judgment against Singh (the plaintiff). In order to collect, Lipworth successfully moved to amend the judgment to add certain aliases of Singh, which Lipworth showed Singh had used in previous lawsuits. The court then granted Lipworth’s application to sell the property in question, which Singh had transferred to his wife, who in turn transferred the property to one of Singh’s aliases. The court set aside the fraudulent transfers and ordered the property sold.
Singh then sued Lipworth, alleging that Lipworth used “fraudulent representations” to win his prior judgment. Lipworth filed an anti-SLAPP motion in response. The trial court granted the anti-SLAPP motion, finding Singh to be a vexatious litigant with “no reasonable probability of prevailing in the litigation because the lawsuit amounted to an impermissible collateral attack on a prior judgment and post-judgment orders.”
Singh appealed the order granting the anti-SLAPP motion and filed an opening brief that the Court of Appeal called “a rambling and disjointed series of accusations, much of which was lifted word for word from pleadings filed by Singh at the trail court.” Lipworth filed a motion for sanctions with the appellate court against both Singh and his attorney. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment granting the anti-SLAPP motion and granted the motion for sanctions on appeal, ordering Singh and his attorney jointly to pay $7,478.76 in fees and costs to Lipworth, and $7,500 in sanctions to the court for wasting the court’s time.
The sanctions appear to be warranted. In line with Singh’s past antics, it appears that he and his attorney couldn’t agree on who authored the appellate briefs and/or who filed them. When asked about the issue at a hearing on the sanctions motion, Singh’s attorney initially stated that he believed the arguments of the appeal were meritorious. However, when the court asked which arguments he thought to be meritorious, he answered “Um, I haven’t looked at any of the arguments in such a long time, I can’t say.” The court called his response “astounding” and showed him a copy of the brief. Amazingly, the attorney then told the court that he did not file the brief and that it wasn’t his signature on the brief.
To see more from that bizarre exchange at the hearing, check out this video and audio.
*The unpublished opinion in this case (Singh v. Lipworth) was originally issued in June of 2014 but was ordered published on July 3.