Friday Funny: Stranger Than Fiction

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The Virginia Prisoner Who Sued Himself

Legal cases don’t get much stranger than the lawsuit filed by in 1995 by Robert L. Brock, a prisoner in the Indian Creek Correctional Center in Chesapeake, Virginia. Of course, prisoners are notorious for their avid litigious behavior. However, Brock earned himself a special place in the annals of notorious litigation by prisoners by suing himself! (Spoiler Alert…he lost).

At the time, Brock was serving a 23-year sentence for grand larceny and breaking and entering. Because he apparently wasn’t happy with the conditions in the Virginia prison, Brock had the bright idea that he would be able to leave the unfriendly confines of Indian Creek and enter a more nurturing mental institution if he entered a $5 million lawsuit claiming that he was drunk when he committed a crime.

In a 7-page, handwritten pleading filed in federal court, Brock informed the Court that he was drunk on July 1, 1993 which caused him to violate his religious beliefs and civil rights by getting arrested. He stated that he wanted to pay himself $5 million in damages, but decided to ask the state to pay the money on his behalf. Brock reasoned that because he was a ward of the state, he was unable to work in order to afford the settlement. He did offer the court a kernel of good intentions, stating that once he got out he’d pay the money back.

The judge was not swayed by Brock’s creative reasoning – she threw the lawsuit out because it was frivolous. Quoted in an article in the Associated Press, the judge stated:

“Plaintiff has presented an innovative approach to civil rights litigation. However, his claim and especially the relief sought are totally ludicrous.”

By the way, Brock continued to make a nuisance of himself in various Virginia courts. In an opinion rendered in 1997 regarding an action Brock filed in United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit against a fellow inmate the Court noted:

Appellant, Robert Lee Brock, a.k.a. Two Souls Walker, a Virginia inmate, lodged twenty-nine appeals before this court in 1995-96 alone, making him one of, if not the most frequent litigants in this circuit. Virtually all of Brock’s actions originate as complaints under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which Brock complains about some aspect of prison conditions. None of Brock’s allegations have ever been found by any court to have any merit. Because Brock’s repeated, frivolous claims have placed a significant burden on this court, as well as on the district court, we ordered Brock on May 16, 1996, to show cause why he should not be sanctioned for filing this most recent appeal. Having reviewed his response, we hereby impose sanctions upon Brock pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 38.”

Brock’s bizarre lawsuit against himself made it to Time Magazine’s list of Top 10 Outrageous Legal Battles. Number 1 on Time’s List?  The case of a woman who sued her college because she was unable to find a job. Sounds almost rational in comparison to Brock’s case.

Care to share any unusual, comical or interesting legal cases?  Feel free to submit your comments.

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