Race, Racism, and the "Vexatious Litigant"

Senior Common Room at Birmingham Law School
Wednesday 23 November 2011 (12:30-14:00)

If you wish to attend please contact Dr. Veronica Rodriguez-Blanco at v.rodriguez-blanco@bham.ac.uk

Staff Research Seminar: Professor Didi Herman (Kent Law School)


In this paper, I explore how courts respond to vexatious litigants.  These are individuals who have been made the subject of a s.42 order under the Supreme Court Act 1981.  Their names are added to an existing list of ‘vexatious litigants’, published by the Court Service and the Law Gazette.  Vexatious litigants are prevented from launching any further legal actions without the express permission of a judge. I first set out a brief history of the concept of vexatious litigation in England, and then explain the governing legal framework.  The second section considers the literature in the area, a short third section discusses some case histories, and the fourth and main part of the paper explores some questions raised by observing judicial narratives of  ‘vexatiousness’ in decisions involving not-white and/or immigrant litigants.  I argue that we can understand vexatious litigation as being about a passionate search for justice, as opposed to or at least as well as an ‘obsession’.  That, rather than suffering from ‘delusions’, many vexatious litigants may, instead, be  very well aware of ‘reality’ but simply not prepared to accept or succumb to it.  I argue that while vexatious litigants appear to be unable to ‘get over’ their old injuries, we can re-conceptualise these dynamics in a way that acknowledges how such melancholic attachments can underpin human agency and social change.  I also suggest that it is worth reversing the gaze to consider the emotional worlds of the judges involved in these cases, and the psychic investments of the legal system itself.

Discussant: Professor Gordon Woodman


  • Staff Research Seminars take place at 1pm in the Senior or Junior Common Room, Birmingham Law School
  • A sandwich lunch and a glass of wine will be provided from 12:30 pm
  • Postgraduate students and academic staff are welcome to attend.

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