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COURT GESTURES BLOG: Cracking down on a ‘litigious frolic’

Court_Gestures_300x100_Another day, another judge who criticizes and sanctions Rodney Rigsby for his litigious nature.

This time, it’s Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess, who on Aug. 6 banned Rigsby from suing attorneys Travis West and Jim Statz, as well as their insurers, employers or clients, for the attorneys’ representation of a woman that hired Rigsby as a business consultant. Niess also imposed attorney’s fees as sanctions, though a final amount has not been determined.

For as many times as I have written about Rigsby and his partners in suit, artist Quincy Neri and Catherine “The Banana Lady” Conrad, I don’t feel like I have to repeat the facts. But here goes: they have made a practice of filing frivolous lawsuits in an attempt to settle claims or to collect millions from insurance companies. Attorneys are frequently the target of these lawsuits, and the strategy from these three nonattorneys has backfired repeatedly, leading them to rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in judgments, sanctions and fines.

In this case, Rigsby sued West and Statz, and their former employer, SBG Law, and made several claims, including that they “dragged out litigation for their own interests” when they were defending Andrea Russell.

In other words, Rigsby sued the attorneys because they didn’t settle a case that he was litigating.

The suit was filed in January. Not long after, West and Statz asked Niess to dismiss the case and sanction Rigsby. Niess granted a motion to dismiss in May.

And in his most recent order, Niess noted that Rigsby is an “experienced litigator” despite having no law license and ruled that he should have to “bear the burden of his litigious frolic.”

According to the judge’s order, “These sanctions are required because plaintiff Rigsby has demonstrated, in other litigation and this, that a mere award of attorneys fees is insufficient to dissuade him from employing the court system solely for sport, or to wage personal vendettas dressed up as frivolous claims.”

Niess also pointed out that Rigsby allegedly told West, “I will make it my life’s work to destroy you,” and “I know exactly what you do every single day, every moment. You don’t know who I am, you don’t really know who I am.”

Only time will tell what happens next. As Rigsby and his cohorts continue to push their litigation, jail time seems more and more likely. And no, those aren’t my words, those are the words of fellow Dane County Judge John Markson.

I hope all the coverage doesn’t wear you out. But it’s for a reason. When talking to Dane County Bar Association President Sarah Zylstra on Wednesday, I asked if she was aware of the trio. She said she was, though she rightly pointed out that pro se litigants who repeatedly file frivolous claims are hardly a new thing.

Still, she said that it’s important that fellow lawyers know about these types of cases, since they can often become an unwilling participant.

So maybe nothing is new, but it’s probably worth knowing.

About Eric Heisig, eric.heisig@wislawjournal.com

Eric Heisig is the Milwaukee courts and legal reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal. He can be reached at eric.heisig@wislawjournal.com or 414-225-1826.

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