SACRAMENTO - A Sacramento man flagged by the California court system for filing frivolous lawsuits has been ordered, along with his attorney, to pay $15,000 in penalties by a state appeals court.
A three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal filed an opinion Wednesday tossing out a case brought by Raghvendra "Raj" Singh. They also ordered him and his San Francisco attorney Keith Oliver to reimburse the target of the lawsuit $7,500 and to pay an additional $7,500 to the court clerk to "compensate the state for the cost to taxpayers of processing a frivolous appeal."
The 21-page opinion concluded "the degree of objective frivolousness is very high and the need for discouragement of like conduct in the future is great."
Additionally, the court sent a confidential letter to the State Bar of California advising of the sanctions against one of its members.
The ruling was the latest twist in a 13-year legal battle between Singh, 51, and Stephen Lipworth, the president of a business condominium owners association, who said he attracted Singh's wrath by insisting Singh pay his monthly dues.
"He said to me, 'My name is Raj Singh and I am your worst nightmare,'" Lipworth, 74, recalled of their first encounter.
Lipworth's attorney Steven Finley was pleased with the sanctions.
"I'm very satisfied that the court agreed with our arguments and that they came down on Singh and his lawyer to the tune of $15,000," Finley said. "Whether or not we ever see any of that money is another matter."
Finley expressed disappointment that the opinion was not published and therefore can't be cited in future litigation, but he was hopeful media coverage of the blunt ruling would discourage misconduct by others.
At the May 27 hearing, Oliver admitted some involvement in filing the appeal, but claimed his signature had been forged on the opening brief.
When pointedly asked by Justice Andrea Hoch why he believed the appeal had merit, Oliver responded, "Um, I haven't looked at any of the arguments in such a long time, I can't say."
Justice Harry Hull said he was "astounded" at Oliver's lack of preparation to defend himself when he had been given written notice that the court was considering imposing monetary sanctions.
Singh is under a separate criminal investigation for allegedly forging a number of legal documents, but has not been formally charged.
Reached at his midtown Sacramento apartment, Singh did not seem surprised or upset when he was informed of the ruling.
"If I'm sanctioned, I'm sanctioned," he said before closing the door.
Oliver has not responded to News10's questions.