Woman barred from suing again without court approval

The ruling against Ms Lai came after 10 judgments against her in 16 years of legal struggle against her job dismissal.
The ruling against Ms Lai came after 10 judgments against her in 16 years of legal struggle against her job dismissal. PHOTO: ST FILE

A woman who has had 10 written judgments made in a 16-year legal struggle to sue the Government for wrongful dismissal has been ordered by the highest court to seek its permission if she wants to sue again in future.

Ms Linda Lai, 59, was sacked as a senior officer at the Land Office of the Law Ministry in December 1998.

In January 2000, she sued the Public Service Commission, seeking a judicial review of her dismissal, which she claimed was due to her exposing her superiors' incompetence.

After her latest legal bid collapsed, Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash wrote in judgment grounds released last week: " One of the purposes of the (relevant law) is to protect litigants, such as Ms Lai, from themselves, and to thereby avoid the situation where they repeatedly bring court actions in different forms to re-litigate matters that have already been decided.

" If such an order is not made, the vexatious litigant, having lost sight of rationality or reality and being armed with an aggravated sense of injustice about his case, is very likely to persist indefinitely in instituting legal proceedings."

In 2001, the Court of Appeal ruled that the courts could not intervene and it was a contractual dispute between her and her employer.

In 2004, she sued the Government for wrongful dismissal and, after a string of legal moves, the suit was deemed discontinued when she took no further action.

But five years later, the Court of Appeal allowed her to resurrect the suit and in the trial that followed in 2010, her claim was dismissed.

In 2011, she sought an order for the Court of Appeal to "reopen and rehear" three past decisions but this was also rejected by the High Court in 2012.

The following year, she asked the Court of Appeal to rule on an "array of disparate questions" linked to the rejected 2012 suit.

This was struck out by an assistant registrar and her appeal to the High Court failed.

The Attorney-General's Chambers subsequently applied in the High Court last year to restrain Ms Lai from trying to revive her case without the court's permission.

Ms Lai, representing herself, appealed to the apex court against the decision at a hearing in May.

The court, in dismissing her appeal, made clear the number of proceedings brought by a litigant, though relevant, " should not be given undue weight".

" There is no magic number of legal proceedings that have to have been brought before a litigant would be labelled as vexatious."

The court found, among other things, that Ms Lai was unable to back her claims that the court had been biased against her in the various past legal proceedings.

"The history of the previous legal proceedings shows that Ms Lai is unwilling and unable to accept that her claims have been dismissed", which meant she would continue to pursue her claims in court "until a court finds for her and gives her exactly the relief that she seeks".

Judge Prakash, who was writing on behalf of the apex court - which included Justices Belinda Ang and Quentin Loh - added: "This is a clear case that justifies an order under Section 74(1) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act in order to protect the interests of the courts, the public, the Attorney-General (the opposing party in these proceedings) and Ms Lai herself, unlikely as it is that she may recognise or accept it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2016, with the headline 'Woman barred from suing again without court approval'. Print Edition | Subscribe