One of the reasons rich parties tend to beat poor parties in civil cases is that the rich party will initiate a bunch of actions in the case that the poor party has to respond to. The poor party cannot afford to pay for the required legal services and thus loses because some filed motion is taken as accepted due to not being opposed.

But a party in a lawsuit can't file an arbitrary number of things arbitrarily fast; if I tried to file ten thousand computer-generated motions in a case at once, I would presumably be stopped by the judge and ordered to stop messing about.

Do judges restrict what can be filed in a case to what one human could plausibly actually read and respond to? Or might a judge find it reasonable for one side to file things at a rate that a single lawyer cannot plausibly read or reply to, effectively assuming that each side must have at least two lawyers to participate in the case?

If not, then does this scale up indefinitely? Can a team of one hundred lawyers be overwhelmed to the point where they immediately lose a case for procedural reasons by a team of one thousand lawyers all filing as fast as possible?


4 Answers 4


A judge will limit each party to reasonable requests. But what is reasonable will be very dependent on the case.

If the plaintiff is attempting to bring a class action suit against a dozen companies that are part of a particular industry, that will produce a tremendous number of motions and a great deal of discovery. It is basically impossible that either side could manage a case like this without hundreds of lawyers and support personnel.

If the plaintiff is suing their landlord over an injury sustained in the apartment complex's parking lot, there is a limited amount of information that either side could reasonably request. There may be disputes over how much of the plaintiff's medical records need to be turned over, for example, but the judge isn't going to spend a week deciding motions. One side might spend a lot of time and money hiring investigators to find evidence that the plaintiff is less injured than they appear or to find experts to testify, which could create work for the plaintiff to rebut those witnesses or find other experts. But there is natural limit to how much legal paperwork could possibly be filed.

Of course, wealthy entities tend to be more likely to be involved in complicated cases. So it is certainly possible that a wealthy entity would find it possible and beneficial to slow walk a case against a lone plaintiff -- particularly if doing so acts as a deterrent for other potential plaintiffs in the same situation (the first plaintiff to successfully sue the tobacco companies, for example, set the stage for much larger suits). But it is more likely that wealthy entities win because they had better lawyering up front -- they wrote the contract and ensured that it covered them for the various potential causes of action, they researched precedents to ensure that they had a strong case should something ever come to trial, etc.

  • 1
    1. "what is reasonable will be very dependent on the case" -- I think this is the key issue. You're saying that the number of possible reasonable motions scales with the inherent complexity of the case. But I think OP is wondering whether there are large numbers of go-to "boilerplate" (not evidence-specific) motions that might be considered reasonable even in the simplest case -- perhaps seeking change of venue, postponement, preemptive clarifications of law, challenges to standing, etc. -- which could be "piled on" at will by a party seeking to bog things down.
    – nanoman
    Commented Mar 12 at 5:25
  • 2. You assume that the richer party is the defendant -- what if they're the plaintiff? (Obviously the poorer defendant would have to be not so poor as to be not worth suing, but they could still be substantially poorer than the plaintiff on a relative basis.)
    – nanoman
    Commented Mar 12 at 5:26
  • @nanoman it doesn't matter which side is acted in bad faith.
    – Trish
    Commented Mar 12 at 15:26
  • @nanoman About #2, sometimes the goal of a lawsuit is not to earn money through it, but to silence an opposition, destroy a competitor, send a message to scare others, or just satisfy ones own vanity. In this case the defendant being too poor to squeeze money out of, is irrelevant.
    – vsz
    Commented Mar 13 at 5:21
  • @vsz Great, that means I didn't really need to include the caveat I did. And it's yet another reason that an answer shouldn't ignore the rich plaintiff/poor defendant scenario.
    – nanoman
    Commented Mar 13 at 15:59

Alternative jurisdiction answer:

These sort of tactics don't work. The Courts have a number of tools available to them to prevent it under the Civil Procedure Rules.

Overriding objective

First, CPR 1.2 - 1.4 require the Court and the parties to give effect to the court's overriding objective:

1.2 The court must seek to give effect to the overriding objective when it – (a) exercises any power given to it by the Rules; [...]

1.3 The parties are required to help the court to further the overriding objective.

1.4 (1) The court must further the overriding objective by actively managing cases.

1.4 (2) Active case management includes – (a) encouraging the parties to co-operate with each other in the conduct of the proceedings; [...]; (c) deciding promptly which issues need full investigation and trial and accordingly disposing summarily of the others; [...]; (h) considering whether the likely benefits of taking a particular step justify the cost of taking it; (i) dealing with as many aspects of the case as it can on the same occasion; [...]; (l) giving directions to ensure that the trial of a case proceeds quickly and efficiently.

The overriding objective is found at CPR 1.1:

(1) These Rules are a procedural code with the overriding objective of enabling the court to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost.

(2) Dealing with a case justly and at proportionate cost includes, so far as is practicable – (a) ensuring that the parties are on an equal footing and can participate fully in proceedings [...]; (b) saving expense; (c) dealing with the case in ways which are proportionate – (i) to the amount of money involved; (ii) to the importance of the case; (iii) to the complexity of the issues; and (iv) to the financial position of each party; (d) ensuring that it is dealt with expeditiously and fairly; (e) allotting to it an appropriate share of the court’s resources, while taking into account the need to allot resources to other cases; [..]

This means that the Court is going to have very little patience for a party which deliberately tries to overwhelm the other party with interim applications (what the US refers to as "motions").

Case management powers

The Court can use its case management powers under CPR 3.1:

(2) Except where these Rules provide otherwise, the court may – [...] (k) exclude an issue from consideration; [...] (m) take any other step or make any other order for the purpose of managing the case and furthering the overriding objective [...]

Or it can strike out a statement of case under CPR 3.4:

(2) The court may strike out a statement of case if it appears to the court – (a) that the statement of case discloses no reasonable grounds for bringing or defending the claim; (b) that the statement of case is an abuse of the court’s process or is otherwise likely to obstruct the just disposal of the proceedings;

Cost implications

The Court has discretion as to what (if any) costs order to make. Under CPR 44.2(2):

(2) If the court decides to make an order about costs – (a) the general rule is that the unsuccessful party will be ordered to pay the costs of the successful party; but (b) the court may make a different order.

CPR 44.2(4) provides:

In deciding what order (if any) to make about costs, the court will have regard to all the circumstances, including – (a) the conduct of all the parties;

And CPR 44.2(5) provides:

The conduct of the parties includes – [...] (b) whether it was reasonable for a party to raise, pursue or contest a particular allegation or issue; (c) the manner in which a party has pursued or defended its case or a particular allegation or issue;

Those rules cover what costs order the Court makes (e.g. it could decide to depart from the general rule by not awarding the winner costs, or even by awarding costs to the loser). But the Court also has discretion as to how much those costs should be. CPR 44.4 provides:

Factors to be taken into account in deciding the amount of costs

44.4 (1) The court will have regard to all the circumstances in deciding whether costs were – (a) if it is assessing costs on the standard basis – (i) proportionately and reasonably incurred; or (ii) proportionate and reasonable in amount, or (b) if it is assessing costs on the indemnity basis – (i) unreasonably incurred; or (ii) unreasonable in amount.

(3) The court will also have regard to – (a) the conduct of all the parties [...]

Civil restraint orders

Ultimately, for the most extreme cases, the Court could issue a civil restraint order under CPR PD 3C. This would prevent a party from making further applications and/or any claims (depending on the type of restraint order) without the Court's permission.

Under CPR 23.12 the Court must consider doing this every time it dismisses an application which is without merit:

If the court dismisses an application (including an application for permission to appeal or for permission to apply for judicial review) and it considers that the application is totally without merit – [...] (b) the court must at the same time consider whether it is appropriate to make a civil restraint order.

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    Sounds awesome, does anyone have experience if this is regularly implemented? Commented Mar 11 at 23:15

The number of amendments to your complaint is limited by the court.

When you file in a court, you get one complaint, the other party gets one reply, you get a rebuttal with an amended complaint, which may get a reply from the defendant and anything more is discretionary. You need to ask the court for allowance to bring a 2nd amended complaint.

motions are broader

Notwithstanding this, filing motions is allowed, as long as they are relevant to the case. If a motion doesn't prove in itself that it is relevant and shows no merit to the arguments, the court may smack it down on its own. Bringing repeatedly irrelevant and meritless motions is disrespectful of the court and is routinely answered with sanctions against the moving party. It can even result in extraordinary fee shifting. In Federal court that would be 28 USC § 1927, though this is only achieved rarely and requires unreasonable motrion practice. I suggest reading the 2011 paper "Bad Faith Fee-Shifting in Federal Courts: What Conduct Qualifies?", which details some of the exceptions that allow fee shifting even under the American Rule.

For an example of bad motion practice and bad litigation that lead to such, let me give you a Richard Liebowitz example: Richard Liebowitz litigated the 'Wrong on so many levels' case between 2019 and 2022. In the end, Mr. Liebowitz faced the other party's lawyers fees and damages valued at 185 000 USD. Among the reasons why the other party could ask for fee shifting was bringing a frivolous case, not communicating a settlement offer, bogging the case down in vexatious motion practices, and continuing to litigate it for years despite having been put on notice that he had no case based on factual errors in the timeline and the Facebook Terms of Service of 2017.


Engaging in bad motion practice can also result in finding the required factors that the moving party is engaging in a SLAPP - a strategic lawsuit against public participation.


In Germany, the plaintiff states how much they want in damages, the defendant states how much they volunteer to pay, and they argue about the difference. The judge has a book that states how much the court fees and the lawyer costs are for that amount.

That billionaire wanting to sue me has two choices: They state a reasonable demand (say €2,000), and the judge will stop them if they create too much work compared to the court fees. Or they say “we want 100 million”. Now they can force the court to do lots of work. My lawyer can just refuse to do extra work. Since there is only €2,000 in damages. The judge will order me to pay these €2,000 and since the billionaire asked for €100,000,000, they lose 99.998% of the case and pay 99.998% of all the cost, I will pay 0.002%. (Assuming of course they were right). If I sue them for €2,000 they can’t make it more expensive.

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