“Jonathan Lee Riches is not a record holder, and a category for the most litigious man is not something Guinness World Records has ever monitored as a record category,” a Guinness spokesperson responded.
Riches, who has reportedly filed pleadings in over 3,000 federal cases in courts across the nation, claims that he has filed more than 4,500. “You try to master your craft, trying to get better at your craft,” he stated. Undoubtedly, many people hope that Riches’ legal work will improve, given that his suits are routinely dismissed as “frivolous” and “delusional,” and some courts have barred him from further filings.
In fact, it’s unclear whether he has ever won a case.
Riches apparently stumbled onto litigation while serving a 125-month sentence for wire fraud at FMC Lexington in Kentucky. While there, Riches, who began including a copyright symbol after his name in 2006, hand-wrote his complaints and paid some of his legal fees by trading nutritional drinks for books of stamps, he said.
“I’ve filed so many lawsuits with my pen and right hand that I got arthritis in my fingers, numbness in my wrists, crooked fingers,” he wrote. “I flush out more lawsuits than a sewer.” He has also filed suits using various aliases, such as “Gino Romano.”
Unrestrained by legal doctrine or reality, Riches apparently has no shortage of defendants. He’s sued countless celebrities and public figures, including Kim Kardashian, Britney Spears, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Hulk Hogan, Martha Stewart and former president George W. Bush. He sued Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick for “$63,000,000,000 billion dollars.” He even filed suit against himself.
Don’t tell Riches that some things, like Mount Rushmore, the Library of Congress and “various Buddhist monks” cannot be sued, because he’s done it. Unsuccessfully, of course, but he’s still done it. He has also sued various historical figures and books (not the authors, just the books), and attempted to intervene in Bernie Madoff’s bankruptcy proceedings.
Riches even named Prison Legal News as a defendant in a 2010 habeas action; PLN was never served, and the court dismissed the case and imposed sanctions against him.
Riches typically alleges absurd legal theories, such as the defendants being members of terrorist groups, or Judge Judy sodomizing him with her gavel, or Steve Jobs hiring O.J. Simpson to set a fire using explosives stolen from Great White, the rock band. While his pleadings are often rambling and nonsensical, at times they border on spoken-word poetry.
He filed a lawsuit against the makers of the Grand Theft Auto IV video game, claiming they had put him in prison where he faced “imminent danger from violent inmates who played Grand Theft Auto who will knock me out and take my gold Jesus cross.”
On October 18, 2010, a federal district court in Kentucky granted a permanent injunction against Riches, finding that he was “not only engaging in a widespread practice of harassment against different people, but also against numerous courts across the country.”
Therefore, the court enjoined him from “using legal or special mail to submit frivolous, fraudulent or malicious documents having no basis in law or fact to federal courts.” Further, federal prison officials were ordered to review “all outgoing legal or special mail submitted by Riches and to return to him without mailing any document that is directed to any federal court and is facially frivolous, fraudulent, malicious, or without any basis in law or fact.” See: United States v. Riches, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Ky.), Case No. 5:10-cv-00322-KSF.
When Riches was released from federal prison in April 2012 he took his penchant for litigation with him and continued filing lawsuits.
For example, in early 2012 the City Council for Lake Oswego, Oregon decided to ban members of the public from swimming in Oswego Lake. This prompted a legitimate federal lawsuit by Lake Oswego Planning Commissioner Todd Prager and Portland attorney Mark Kramer, on the ground that the lake is public water.
Riches filed a motion to intervene in the case in June 2012, contending that the city was hiding President Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate and Jimmy Hoffa’s remains, among other things, in a secret underwater bubble at the bottom of the lake.
However, Riches’ litigious activities have slowed since his release from prison, and according to PACER, the federal court docket system, he has filed no new federal actions thus far in 2013.
That may be due to recent issues related to his criminal case. Riches was arrested in December 2012 for violating the terms of his federal supervised release by traveling to Newtown, Connecticut without permission, where he reportedly impersonated the uncle of Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter. He had also failed to make restitution payments as required by his supervised release conditions. According to an article in the New Republic, Riches was sentenced on February 7, 2013 to 2½ to 5 years in prison for violating his probation on old, unrelated state charges in Pennsylvania.
Sources: The Oregonian, www.newrepublic.com, www.computerandvideogames.com, Huffington Post, http://abcnews.go.com, www.thesmokinggun.com
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Related legal case
United States v. Riches
|Cite||U.S.D.C. (E.D. Ky.), Case No. 5:10-cv-00322-KSF|