Report No. 192
(i) Ebert Series of cases:
We shall now refer to the Ebert series of cases leading to the applicant being banned from entry into Royal Courts for three years. The cases decided at different stages are also reported judgments.
Mr. Ebert was adjudicated bankrupt on 22nd July 1997. Since then he directed himself, with great energy, to get the order annulled or to show, by collateral litigation that he was a victim of conspiracy.
(i) As his repeated applications in regard to the same subject were vexatious, the Court initially passed a Grepe v. Loam order asking him to obtain leave before filing a new action. These orders were upheld by the Court of Appeal on 30th March 1999 (see Ebert v. Venvil, 1999(3) WLR 670 (Lord Woolf, Otton & Aldous JJ. Fresh applications for leave were refused by Neuberger J and they were rejected on 26.8.99 Ebert v. Midland Bank PLC, 1999 EWCA (civ) 2108.
(ii) It was at that stage that the Attorney General applied and the Court felt compelled to pass a section 42 order. Lewis and Silbert JJ in HM Attorney General v. Ebert, 2000 EWHC Adnil 286 (7th July, 2000) passed orders under section 42 of the Supreme Court Act, declaring Mr. Ebert as a vexatious litigant. A long series of vexatious cases initiated by Mr. Elbert were listed out and an order was passed declaring him as a vexatious litigant and requiring him to obtain prior leave for all future actions. (The oral arguments which are also reported show how vexatious Mr. Ebert was).
(iii) Then in Ebert v. Official Receiver, 2001 EWCA (Liv) 209 (15.2.2001), two applications for leave to file appeal were rejected. The Court observed that the patience with which Neuberger J dealt with a series of applications of Elbert was fair and open-minded. The Court of Appeal heard and refused leave.
(iv) Yet another application for leave to appeal was rejected by the Court of Appeal in Ebert v. Official Receiver, (2001) EWCA (Liv) 305 (20th Feb. 2001).
(v) The human rights angle was gone into in Ebert v. Official Receiver, 2001 EWCA (Liv) 340 and it was held that section 42 of the Supreme Court Act, 1981 did not violate the right to access to courts and fair trial under Art 6 of the Human Rights Convention.
(vi) Thereafter, an order of considerable rarity was passed on 21 Sep. 2001 in Attorney General v. Ebert, 2002(2) All ER 789, by Brooke and Harrison JJ under inherent powers restraining Ebert from entering the Royal Courts of Justice without permission. It was directed as follows:
"The Court's supervising role extended beyond the mere regulation of litigation and of litigants who had submitted themselves to the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court, and included the regulation of the manner in which the Court process could, in general, be utilized. in the exercise of inherent jurisdiction, the court had the power to retrain litigants from wasting the time of court staff and disturbing the orderly conduct of Court processes in a completely obsessive pursuit of their own litigation, taking it forward by one unmeritorious application after another and insisting that they should be afforded priority over other litigants."
Holding that the Grepe v. Loam orders and section 42 were not sufficient, the Court held that a separate order was necessary to prevent Ebert from disturbing the conduct of court business. It said:
"In the light of past conduct, there was no reason why Ebert should be permitted to enter any part of the Royal Courts of Justice except to the extent allowed for, in the injunction that would be granted. That injunction would be limited to three years in the first instance. An order limited in time would be a proportionate response to the nuisance of which the Attorney-General made complaint."
As for precedents the Court referred to Ex p Leachman (16th Jan 1998) where Simon Bordh LJ had directed that the litigant in that case should stop writing letters to the staff for his case hearings and should write only to a designated officer. In Binder v. Binder (2000 CA) (9th March, 2000), orders were passed protecting Court staff from harassment. Declaring a person as a vexatious litigant was different from protecting the integrity of court proceedings and protection of court staff. On facts, it was held that an injunction for 3 years would be proportionate to the occasion.
(vii) Finally, Kennedy & Treacy JJ in Attorney General v. Ebert, 2004 EWHC 1838 (Adm) allowed a further application by the Attorney General to restrain Mr. Ebert from switching his activities to the criminal courts. An application was filed by the Attorney General under section 42 of Supreme Court Act, 1981 and was allowed as Mr. Ebert had started vexatious prosecutions too. The Court passed a "Criminal Proceedings Order" of indefinite duration.