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In re Prefiling Order Declaring Vexatious Litigant

Supreme Court of Idaho

January 29, 2019


          Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Bradly S. Ford, District Judge.

         The prefiling order declaring Van Hook a vexatious litigant is affirmed.

          Ronald Van Hook, Payette, appellant pro se argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Nicholas A. Warden argued.

          PER CURIAM.

         This appeal arises from an administrative order declaring Ronald Van Hook a vexatious litigant under Idaho Court Administrative Rule 59. Van Hook appealed. We now affirm, holding that there was no abuse of discretion when the administrative district judge found Van Hook to be a vexatious litigant.


         This case began as a highly contentious divorce proceeding between Van Hook and his then-wife Dawn Cannon, in which Van Hook lost custody of his children (hereinafter the Canyon County divorce case). Van Hook was represented by legal counsel only for portions of the divorce proceeding as each of his attorneys withdrew from the case. Following each attorney's departure, Van Hook filed a new series of pro se motions and objections before the court. These motions were similar and repetitive. Van Hook filed numerous motions to amend the magistrate court's temporary custody and visitation orders, disqualify the magistrate judge assigned to the case, change venue, and find Cannon in criminal contempt. He also filed multiple petitions for a writ of habeas corpus. His pro se motions and petitions were continuously denied and largely found to be frivolous. When Van Hook appealed the Canyon County divorce case, the district court found Van Hook's motion to recuse the magistrate judge frivolous, and that his appeal was also without foundation.

         In addition to the divorce proceeding, Van Hook commenced several other lawsuits against Cannon, or for custody between 2014 and 2017: five in Canyon County, one in Owyhee County, and one in Adams County. Ultimately, five of these cases resulted in dismissal or were denied outright-two of them on the same day they were filed. Another case granted Van Hook's petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus in Adam's County, and was later dismissed there. The seventh case was pending at the time of this appeal, and has since been dismissed.

         On April 27, 2017, the magistrate court, acting in response to a motion filed by Cannon's attorney in the Canyon County divorce case, issued a written Order for Referral requesting that the administrative district judge of Idaho's Third Judicial District determine whether Van Hook should be declared a vexatious litigant pursuant to Idaho Court Administrative Rule 59. The administrative district judge then entered an order to open a new file concerning the matter.

         On June 2, 2017, the administrative district judge filed a proposed prefiling order, to which Van Hook filed a response and opposition. Following a hearing, the administrative district judge issued an order on September 20, 2017, declaring that Van Hook was a vexatious litigant under multiple prongs of Idaho Court Administrative Rule 59(d) and requiring him to seek court permission prior to filing any new litigation in the courts pro se without first obtaining leave of a judge where the litigation is proposed to be filed. Van Hook appealed the order to this Court. We affirm the administrative district judge's determination.


         "A prefiling order entered by an administrative district judge designating a person as a vexatious litigant may be appealed to the Supreme Court by such person as a matter of right." I.C.A.R. 59(f). On review of the prefiling order, this Court applies an abuse of discretion standard. Telford v. Nye, 154 Idaho 606, 610, 301 P.3d 264, 268 (2013). The Court reviews an alleged abuse of discretion by determining whether the trial court "(1) perceived the issue as one of discretion, (2) acted within the outer boundaries of that discretion, (3) acted consistently with the legal standards applicable to the specific choices available to it, and (4) reached its decision by an exercise of reason." Lunneborg v. My Fun Life, 163 Idaho 856, 863, 421 P.3d 187, 195 (2018). In addition, this Court will not set aside factual findings unless clearly erroneous. Telford, 154 Idaho at 609, 301 P.3d at 267. Findings of fact are not clearly erroneous if they are supported by substantial and competent evidence. Hull v. Giesler, 163 Idaho 247, 409 P.3d 827, 830 (2018).

         III. ...

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