'Campaign of litigation terror' leads to attorney's disbarment

A Taiwan-born graduate of Yale Law School who worked at several prestigious law firms in southern California was disbarred May 2, 1997, after engaging in a what one judge described as "a campaign of litigation terror." LIANG-HOUH SHIEH [#128034], 49, also was characterized by one of the many attorneys who opposed him as "the benchmark by which all vexatious litigants in the state of California will be judged."

Shieh filed dozens of lawsuits against hundreds of defendants, most of them either former law partners or former employees. He moved between federal and state courts, filing and re-filing identical suits, and appealed every ruling against him, including at least four petitions to the state Supreme Court.

Repeatedly declared a vexatious litigant, he ignored prohibitions against filing additional suits.

Judges who ruled against him were branded racists and tools of big law firms by Shieh.

Sanctions of more than $500,000 were ignored.

Ultimately convicted of contempt in Los Angeles Superior Court, Shieh failed to appear for sentencing and remains at large.

Evidence in the State Bar case against Shieh filled 65 binders. His fight against the disciplinary charges included an effort to move the case to federal court and two appeals to the Ninth Circuit.

Between the mid-1980s and 1991, Shieh worked variously for O'Melveny & Myers; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Graham & James; Lewis, D'Amato, Brisbois & Bisgaard; and Fulbright & Jaworski.

For three years after his employment with Fulbright & Jaworski was terminated, Shieh filed a series of suits against each firm, charging them with various state and federal causes of action, including RICO, wrongful termination, invasion of privacy, breach of contract and discrimination.

Filed again, typos and all

One case, dismissed in federal court, was later filed in state court, word for word, including the same misspellings and typos.

In another matter Shieh brought against three law firms, the defendants filed a motion to have him declared a vexatious litigant. Once such a motion is filed, litigation is stayed.

Nonetheless, Shieh filed a motion to seek a continuance of the hearing, compel depositions of 32 defendants, stay defendants' discovery until completion of his discovery and award sanctions, and asked for a contempt ruling against the defendants.

When his motion was denied and Shieh was sanctioned and declared a vexatious litigant, he filed six motions for reconsideration. When those were denied and Shieh was sanctioned further, he filed 12 more motions. He then filed a voluminous first amended complaint, adding a new plaintiff.

After Shieh's case was dismissed, he went to the Court of Appeal, which threw out the appeal as harassment and concluded that the new plaintiff was an alter ego used "to circumvent the provisions of the vexatious litigant statute."

In another case, Shieh sued a former attorney who had sued him for wages Shieh owed. He also sued her boyfriend, her sister and two banks. Shieh listed himself and another attorney on the pleadings; the other attorney, who had recommended against filing the case, successfully petitioned to withdraw. Shieh eventually sued that attorney as well.

Sanctions of more than $337,000

In an order for sanctions of more than $100,000, the court noted 17 acts by Shieh or his attorney as grounds for sanction. They included Shieh's service of three sets of form interrogatories requiring responses from each of 340 defendants, and numerous frivolous disqualification motions against a superior court judge.

Another sanction order for $237,000 found 30 violations by Shieh, including frivolous and outrageous pleadings and numerous premature writs to stymie actions in the superior court.

Shieh was "at war" with the courts, individual judges, his former law firms and attorneys who were his ex-employees, the bar court said. His efforts to disqualify a judge were "purely a vindictive matter," it added.

In disbarring Shieh, the State Bar Court found that he failed to report sanctions, pursued litigation for corrupt motives, filed unjust litigation, and did not maintain respect for courts and judges.

Noting that Shieh is "defiant and unrepentant," Judge Eugene Brott wrote, "The judicial system was stymied by [Shieh's] wasteful and meritless litigation. . . His actions were in bad faith and motivated by base and improper aims.

"His tactics as a whole are devoid of any consideration for the victims of his 'war'."

Shieh's petition for writ of review to the California Supreme Court was denied.