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COURT GESTURES: Niess doesn’t play nice with serial litigant

Court_Gestures_WLJ-homepage_Well, serial pro se litigant Rodney Rigsby is still at it.

And just like before, a Madison judge isn’t having any of it.

Rigsby is the nonattorney litigator who, along with “Banana Lady” Catherine Conrad and artist Quincy Neri, files suit after suit claiming their intellectual property was infringed upon by people. If those claims don’t work, they sue attorneys for not settling with them.

They have filed 25 lawsuits against 103 defendants in the Madison area. As of March, they were on the hook for more than $150,000 in judgments, most of which remain unpaid.

Judge after judge has knocked down their claims and expressed their frustration, yet the trio keeps going.

On Tuesday, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess made it clear he wasn’t going to tolerate Rigsby’s antics. In a 10-page order, Niess struck down each of Rigsby’s claims for relief in a suit he filed against Travis West and Jim Statz of SBG Law SC, Madison.

The lawyers represent Andrea Russell, whom Rigsby sued for breach of contract after he and Conrad worked with her as business consultants. Those cases were thrown out, and Rigsby filed suit against West and Statz, claiming the pair “dragged out litigation for their own interests.”

In other words, Rigsby sued the attorneys because they did not settle.

In his decision, Niess said he refused to cut Rigsby a break just because he isn’t a licensed attorney.

“Plaintiff’s pro se status accords him neither leeway to pursue frivolous claims, privilege to ignore the procedural rules applicable to lawyers under Wisconsin law, license to advance legal gobbledygook, nor justification for harassment,” according to the judge’s opinion.

Niess went on to call Rigsby “a serial litigator … with more courtroom experience than virtually all recent law school graduates” and showed little tolerance for what he felt were undeveloped and nonsensical arguments.

“There are vague and conclusory fragments of an abuse of process claim scattered hither and yon in the complaint,” Niess wrote, “but the plaintiff neither specifically identifies abuse of process as a separate claim for relief nor does he argue it in response to the motion to dismiss.”

In one claim, Rigsby alleged West and Statz violated his right to privacy because the attorneys “obtained ‘personal and private information in a supplemental exam that had no grounds in the first place’ and submitted his and his business’s ‘bank statements, personal information, and the exam deposition transcript …’”

Niess disagreed, writing, “The civil courts of this state are not ‘private’ places but are open to the public. Litigants do not ‘trespass therein by participating in statutorily authorized proceedings.’”

Don’t expect the decision to stop Rigsby and his cohorts, however.

Rigsby has another suit pending in federal court, and Conrad recently had a claim against Bell, Moore & Richter SC shot down by Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington.

For those who are sued, it’s another chapter in a long saga that seems to never end. For others, the cases can be a fascinating aspect of a recent push to make the court system easier to navigate for pro se parties.


Editor’s note: The amount in judgments that Rigsby, Conrad and Neri owe was based on court filings from March 2014. The article was updated Aug. 1, 2014, to reflect that.

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