Frivolous Appeals by “Frequent Filers”

By Attorney Gregg Herman
December 19, 2012

As reluctant as I am to ever compliment the court of appeals (it’s more fun to criticize!), I must play fair and give credit where credit is due.

One of the major problems in family court is “frequent filers” — parties, almost always pro se, who argue and fight every issue.  They think they have nothing to lose as they don’t have lawyers to pay and the benefit seems to be annoying the other side.  Inexplicably, courts are often reluctant to sanction these people.

Therefore, kudos to (now retired) Milwaukee County Judge Elsa Lamelas and District 1 of of the court of appeals.  In an unpublished (and not citeable) case decided today,  Hooker v. Hooker, 2010 AP 1336, the appellate court not only affirmed Judge Lemelas for finding Mr. Hooker in contempt and assessing attorney fees, but also found his entire appeal to be frivolous and remanded to assess costs and attorney fees.

Now mind you, this was a severe case.  Among other bad things, Mr. Hooker hit his children with a belt (his “defense” was that he did it before the court ordered him not to) and stopped his weekend placement because he did not want to communicate with his ex regarding pickup and dropoff.

To its credit, the court of appeals did not let Mr. Hooker off the hook because he was pro se, holding:

“Although Hooker is self-represented, that status does not confer a license to ignore the legal principles that govern a dispute nor does it permit a litigant to burden this court and the opposing party with meritless arguments.”

Maybe if more courts followed the example of Judge Lamelas and the court of appeals, there would be fewer who follow the example of Mr. Hooker.

Attorney Gregg Herman is a founding partner of Loeb & Herman, LLC in Milwaukee, WI. He practices family law exclusively, and can be reached via e-mail or by calling (414) 272-5632.