Is there a limit to the rate at which a person can file court cases? What if someone purposefully tries to file a court case every minute to disrupt the court? Can that person be punished in India or the USA?
There is no limit, per se, but intentional disruption of the courts is regarded as Vexatious Litigation and in some countries (the UK for example) the court may prohibit a person from making any further applications or carrying out litigation without permission.
Vexatious litigation is legal action which is brought solely to harass or subdue an adversary. It may take the form of a primary frivolous lawsuit or may be the repetitive, burdensome, and unwarranted filing of meritless motions in a matter which is otherwise a meritorious cause of action. Filing vexatious litigation is considered an abuse of the judicial process and may result in sanctions against the offender.
Yes, it's actally happened. Several outfits have filed cases by the hundreds, and they were even literally photocopies.
And it works rather well, until one victim stands up for what's right - and then the house of cards comes tumbling down.
For instance, due to a minor ADA issue (toilet paper roll 2" too low etc.) poor Jarek Molski was injured using the bathroom... in hundreds of restaurants, many on the same day, and hundreds in the same week.
On one hand, hundreds of defendants simply paid Molski off, raising about a million dollars. On the other hand, the first defendant to actually fight back was able to uncover the hundreds of other cases, and the obvious fraud. The court swiftly ruled that
- Jarek Molski is a vexatious litigant and can file no more lawsuits, except by asking permission (presenting the facts to a judge and the judge deciding that there's really a worthy case there).
- The lawyers which represented Molski are likewise barred from representing anyone in an ADA case.
- Their law firm, likewise.
Another group of lawyers set up a law firm specifically to sue the owners of "BBS's" / internet forums / Q&A sites such as StackExchange, whose public users had pasted up copies of newspaper articles into the BBS. They Bought the "right to sue" from copyright owners such as newspapers - Righthaven didn't own the content, just the "hunting license" to go after people who infringed on the content - with the content owners getting a cut of proceeds.
They too filed hundreds of "madlib" lawsuits. In fact their lawsuit engine was so automated that they 'accidentally' sued journalists writing about Righthaven - (who quoted material from the entirely public lawsuit papers themselves - complaints are public by definition unless sealed by the courts.)
Needless to say, Righthaven had never heard of DMCA Safe Harbor, or hoped the forum owners hadn't. Again it worked: hundreds "paid up".
Molski and Righthaven carefully chose "settlement offer" numbers ($5000-ish) that would be slightly cheaper than raising a legal defense ($6000-10,000). In the USA, each party pays their own legal bills - there's no concept of "loser pays" unless the other party's conduct is outrageous. It's so rare that when I had the pleasure of doing so, the court told us to take the standard garnishment forms, cross out "defendant" and hand-write "plaintiff" :)
And again, the first defendant to actually stand up to Righthaven in court, asked the court to knock Righthaven to the moon, which the court gleefully did.
RIAA / MPAA
BitTorrent is a file-sharing network with no central hub. It breaks files into thousands of "chunks". Users collect chunks from hundreds of other users until they have the whole thing. Part of the social contract of BitTorrent is that people who download also upload (seed) to share the chunks they have gotten so far. People who refuse to upload are called leeches.
RIAA and MPAA are the trade associations of the music and movie industries, respectively. They searched for BitTorrent (pirated, they claim) copies of their members' music and movies. They then "leeched" those copies with modified BitTorrent software that recorded the IP address of the "seeder". They took the IP address to the owning ISP, and demanded the customer identity. Then they sent out "pay-us-or-else" letters by the tens of thousands, and filed suits by the thousands. The argument was that the seeder had pirated the music, and that the ISP account holder was financially responsible for that activity, neither claim 100% reliable.
This campaign has been supported by the courts, because RIAA/MPAA were very careful of their legal footing. But I only mention this because another gang of lawyers was paying attention, and they had their own ideas.
This gang of lawyers correctly guessed that if users panicked at an RIAA/MPAA demand letter, they'd really panic if the topic was pornography.
So they set up a law firm specifically to apply RIAA/MPAA's techniques to porn. (one wonders if they paid RIAA a royalty). But they were much more outrageous and careless. For instance, rather than partner or purchase legitimate porn content, they worked with porn stars like Sunny Leone to create shell companies who, unbelievably made original content specifically as bait to ensnare BitTorrent users.
Again, this situation only works until someone stands up for what's right: then it all falls apart.
This ended much, much worse than Righthaven or Molski. The civil judges were so offended they referred the matter out for criminal prosecution. The organizers got 19 years in prison between them.
What if someone purposefuly tries to file a court case every minute to disrupt the court can the person be punished in India or USA?
There is no official rate limit, but in the USA that person might be blacklisted as vexatious litigant. This blacklisting triggers a "filter-out" process intended to validate that the lawsuit is not blatantly frivolous or vexatious. Most likely something similar happens in India.
Since a plaintiff has to pay a fee when filing his complaint, most vexatious litigants would be unable to file complaints that often.
The other answers make good points. A few others that haven't been raised:
There are filing fees involved in filing a lawsuit that while modest, still prevent the number of suits filed from reaching absurdly infinite levels. To file one lawsuit a minute for two days will cost you about $720,000+ before considering the requirements to hire process servers. This is not a cheap form of protest and it is likely that eventually the person filing the lawsuits will be hit with vastly bigger attorneys' fee sanctions to pay for the costs and attorney fees incurred by the defendants who get the cases dismissed as frivolous. Two days of filing a case a minute could easily end up costing the person filing them tens of millions of dollars in frivolous lawsuit sanctions.
Filing a lawsuit doesn't accomplish much. To have legal effect, it needs to be served via process servers (who charge additional fees) on the defendants. This takes time in a real world activity and until returns of service are filed with the court, the lawsuits just sit in a court file somewhere, preserving a statute of limitations, but subject to a ticking clock deadline to get the legal process in the case delivered. If fake returns of service are filed, sooner or later, the person filing them or the person claiming to have done the service, is going to prison.
Somebody has to keep track of all the responses to the lawsuits filed and schedule court dates for each one. This takes time and skilled labor. Several million dollars worth for somebody who has filed a lawsuit every minute for 48 hours, just to prevent the cases from being dismissed administratively for failure to prosecute.
Most lawsuits today are filed by e-filing. E-filed lawsuits are screened by an e-filing clerk who personally looks at each filing and decides whether to accept or reject it. So, if there are too many lawsuits filed by one litigant in one court, the e-filing clerk is going to catch it and quite possible either reject many of them as apparently redundant, or refer them all to a single judge as a single case causing a judge to issue a show cause order with an in person hearing to the person filing the suits before taking any further action.
There are non-vexatious reasons to file lots of lawsuits. These are mostly filed by collection agencies or law firms employed by banks to collect mostly unpaid credit card bills, or foreclose on mortgages that in default, or by tax collection agencies to impose tax liens or foreclose upon them. Mass filings of debt collection lawsuits by banks, tax collection agencies and other institutional creditors are common place and make up most of the cases in most court systems. It wouldn't be usual for hundreds or even thousands of such suits to be filed every week in a large enough urban county.
Having worked on pleading automation at a collections law firm, I have firsthand experience with informal rate-limiting procedures that were employed in some US courts during the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis.
Given that we were filing in excess of 50 cases per day at times, certain court clerks issued rules limiting the number of cases that could be filed per day in a particular location.
This required us to indirectly employ additional "line standers" to fan out across the various court locations in order to ensure all of the cases were filed in a timely manner.
Occasionally, the clerks would eject a line stander they had seen a bit too often, so we had to add a location rotation to the filing procedure.
It should have been possible for a particularly active debt-buying individual to trigger this sort of limitation, but it may not be any more with the increased use of E-Filing.