SACRAMENTO - A man who began a 13-year legal battle by boasting he was the defendant's worst nightmare got an upbraiding Tuesday as he took the case to California's 3rd District Court of Appeal.
Raghvendra "Raj" Singh, 51, has been declared a "vexatious litigant" in the state's court system. He was ordered to appear with his attorney Keith Oliver to explain why his latest appeal of an unfavorable superior court ruling was not frivolous.
Oliver surprised the three-judge panel by telling them that he, in fact, had not filed the opening brief in the appeal last October.
Justice Harry Hull challenged Oliver to explain.
"Is that your signature?" Hull demanded.
"No, it is not," Oliver replied.
"It's a forgery?" Hull continued.
"It is not my signature. I did not file the brief," Oliver responded.
Hull's heated questioning then turned to Singh. "Well, who did write the brief, Mr. Singh? Mr. Oliver tells us he didn't write it."
"I don't know, your honor," Singh replied.
"He said it's a forged signature of his on there," Hull continued. "He says he didn't write it. You say you don't know who wrote it. What are we supposed to do with this?"
Singh is the subject of a criminal investigation for allegedly forging other legal documents, but outside the courtroom Singh again denied knowing who had filed the appellate court brief with Oliver's forged signature.
"I said it already. Don't harass me. Just go away," Singh demanded.
The drama in the historic courts building across from the state Capitol was just the latest twist in a long saga for 74-year-old Stephen Lipworth. He has spent roughly $120,000 in legal fees to defend himself from Singh in what began as a minor dispute in 2001 over condominium association dues.
"He said to me, 'My name is Raj Singh and I am your worst nightmare,'" recalled Lipworth of their first encounter.
Lipworth's attorney, Steven Finley, is seeking $7,479 in sanctions from Singh and Oliver to cover the cost of defending the latest appeal. Separately, Oliver is the subject of an investigation by the California State Bar.
The justices took the case of Singh v. Lipworth under submission, but left little doubt how they were leaning.
"I think for court of appeal justices, who are usually very restrained, they got pretty activated on this," Finley said. "Even though they didn't express it, the body language to me was one of disdain and disgust."
Lipworth said he hoped his long ordeal with Singh was coming to an end, but said he's suffered too many disappointments in the past to be overly optimistic.
"We'll wait and see," he said.