Legal Developments Pertinent to Harassment of Former Cult Members
Paulette and Scott Buchanan have met with Tennessee state legislators to advocate for the rights of innocent defendants of abusive pro se litigation, including abusive pro se litigation initiated by cult leaders and their followers. “Pro Se” means to argue on one's own behalf in a legal proceeding as a defendant or plaintiff in civil cases or a defendant in criminal cases. Paulette and Scott have themselves been targeted by a group leader who has filed multiple civil cases against them. Defending against such cases can be economically costly and psychologically stressful.
Paulette and Scott report on two bills that are now before the Tennessee State Legislature:
HB0186 -- This bill creates a statewide list for court clerks to reference regarding all abusive litigants who have prefiling restrictions against them. This bill is intended to ensure that court clerks do not accept lawsuits filed by abusive litigants who engage in "court hopping" by filing lawsuits in various other counties' courts after one county court judged them to be an abusive litigant and placed pre-filing restrictions against them.
HB0337 -- This bill is the most crucial one that will help abuse victims -- including those victims of cults/coercive groups which, acting without an attorney (pro se), weaponize the court system by filing harassing, defamatory, and utterly meritless lawsuits against innocent defendants. This bill calls for a process of judicial review in which pro se litigants are required to have their lawsuits reviewed by a court-appointed attorney. If a court-appointed attorney approves the lawsuits to proceed (most won't), then the pro se litigants must post bond to cover defendants' expenses in the event the pro se litigants lose their cases (most do). If the pro se litigants can't/won't post bond, then their lawsuits are dismissed with prejudice, meaning that they are prohibited from filing the same lawsuit again. If the above bill, HB0186, passes, then all of Tennessee's court clerk offices will be notified. This procedure will prevent innocent defendants from spending one penny in legal expenses, and they will not even have to respond to and defend themselves against meritless, harassing lawsuits filed by abusive pro se litigants.