‘Litigation as a Form of Costless Entertainment’

The Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has run out of patience with a frequent litigant. In a case involving the Social Security Administration, the court revoked this plaintiff’s privilege of filing without paying filing fees and dismissed his 44 pending cases.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has run out of patience with a frequent litigant. In a Social Security Administration case, C.A.D.C. No. 06-5339 (10/3/08), the court has revoked this plaintiff’s privilege of filing in forma pauperis (IFP), dismissed his 44 pending cases, and barred him from filing future appeals without paying the required filing fees. (Opinion p. 2)

Some of the plaintiff’s dismissed appeals were directed at various federal agencies. The court’s opinion does not provide much factual background, other than to identify those who have apparently aggrieved the plaintiff over the years: “An extraordinary number of people, institutions, and inanimate objects have wronged Tyrone Hurt. In just the last couple of years, Hurt has sued the Declaration of Independence, Black’s Law Dictionary, the United Nations, agencies of the District of Columbia and the Federal Government, and various courts and their officers.” (p. 2)

According to the court, among other things in his more than seventy appeals with the court since 2006, he has sought to have the President’s Cabinet declared unconstitutional, and tried to get a Spanish-speaking government employee deported from the United States. (pp. 2-3)

The court goes on to elaborate: “Nor are the slights Hurt suffered mere glancing blows; he routinely demands trillions of dollars in damages.” (p. 3) Hurt typically filed application for IFP status, so he has avoided paying any filing fees in connection with all this litigation. (p. 3)

But the appeals court apparently has reached the end of its patience. It threw out more than 25 earlier appeals and found itself sued by him for doing so. Once a special judicial considered and threw out his suit against the D.C. Circuit, that court now has summarily tossed the 44 remaining appeals filed by Hurt, pointing to the discretion granted by the IFP law to revoke the privilege for “abusive litigants,” that the court finds clearly applies in this case. (pp. 3-4)

Citing his “penchant for litigation as a form of costless entertainment,” the court now goes “one step further” and concludes that it may bar him from proceeding IFP in all future appeals. (p. 4) In revoking the privilege, the court states, “If Hurt wishes to continue wasting this Court’s time by appealing dismissals of his absurd and frivolous claims, he should have to do it on his own dime.” (p. 6)

The court directs its clerk to refuse to accept any future filings that are not accompanied by the appropriate filing fees. (p. 6)

About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.