An Aspen lawyer who has filed 26 frivolous lawsuits since 2013 and used the court system to harass his targets has been banned from initiating any further litigation on his own, the Colorado Supreme Court ordered.
The Court indicated it was fed up with what it characterized as Robert A. Francis' "game of judicial whack-a-mole," and took the unusual step of describing his behavior publicly and in detail to justify the extreme penalty in the Monday order.
"No one is entitled to use the judicial process for the purpose of harassing his or her adversaries," wrote Justice Carlos A. Samour, Jr. for the Court. "And when someone like Francis insists on doing just that for the better part of a decade, including after courts have warned him, reprimanded him, and sanctioned him, and after his law license has been suspended, it is incumbent on us to step in and say 'enough'."
The Court instructed the chief judges of each judicial district in Colorado to block any further filings from Francis submitted without a legal representative. According to the cases Samour cited, the last time the Court took such an action against an attorney was in 1982.
According to the Court's narrative, Francis and his other family members owned a condominium unit in Aspen that was damaged by water. Around the same time, the Aspen Mountain Condominium Association proposed revamping the condo assessment formula, with the result that Francis and his family would have paid 12.5% more. They were the only ones to vote against the change.
In 2010, Francis and his family sued the condo association in Pitkin County District Court, seeking compensation for the water damage and asking a judge to void the assessment change because it was not approved unanimously. The Francis family also ceased paying most of their assessments to the association.
Five years later, a judge sided with the condo association and ordered the Francis family to pay the new rate. Francis prevailed on appeal and the case returned to the lower court, with the judge applying the lower assessment rate. The total amount owed was in excess of $285,000. The Court of Appeals dismissed Francis' appeal for the final time in February of this year.
That was one lawsuit. The Supreme Court's issues with Francis' behavior began with the other 26 lawsuits he filed over the past decade.
The second one commended in February 2013. The third, in August of that year. The fourth in December. The onslaught of legal filings concluded with a March 2021 case filed in Denver District Court.
In some of the filings, Francis named the condo association inexplicably as a plaintiff. In others, he alleged that he and his family had no connection with the original court case "whatsoever." By the 18th lawsuit, a district court judge warned Francis to stop filing duplicative litigation when his claims had already been rejected repeatedly for the same reason.
After lawsuit number 19, the judge, Christopher Seldin, said that Francis apparently wanted to "punish Defendants, extract some sort of settlement from them, or both." Seldin added that Francis' bad-faith behavior was "unacceptable and besmirches the legal profession." He barred Francis from filing future lawsuits in Pitkin County on his own.
After Francis switched to harassing the condo association and other defendants in Denver's courts, they asked the Supreme Court to intervene.
The parties "could conceivably request the Denver District Court to order the same relief as the Pitkin County District Court has, but given Respondent’s course of conduct over the years, it remains quite likely he would merely turn to other counties in which to file suits," read the petition to the Supreme Court.
In response, Francis told the Court it was "impossible to address the cases listed," and instead claimed the lawyers opposing him had given false answers to the Court of Appeals, and that Pitkin County District Court never had jurisdiction over him. He also boasted that he had taken and passed a polygraph test after a judge said his testimony was "not credible."
The Supreme Court noted that Colorado's constitution protects the right of individuals to access state courts, but the right does not extend to weaponizing the judicial branch to harass others.
"Francis has stubbornly disregarded warnings, reprimands, orders, and sanctions from courts — even after having his law license suspended," Samour wrote. "We have not only the authority but the responsibility to intervene at this point to protect our courts, litigants, and the public from Francis’ improper and abusive tactics."
Francis did not respond to an email and phone message seeking comment.
The case is In re Francis v. Wegener et al.