Goldsmith Collins: Footballer, Fencer, Maverick Litigator
journal contributionposted on 29.10.2019, 08:38 by Simon Smith
The surge in 'litigants in person' is a challenge for contemporary courts. At the extreme end are a small group of vexatious litigants or querulents who persistently and unsuccessfully pursue litigation until banned by the court. But who are they and what motivates them? This article traces the story of one of this small band of persistent litigants, Goldsmith 'Goldie' Collins (1901-1982). As a young man Collins was a champion Australian Rules Footballer with the Fitzroy Football Club. He found later notoriety through his provocative legal proceedings as a self-represented litigant against the Northcote City Council that rapidly escalated into a legal assault against all persons and institutions drawn into that web. Jn 1952 Collins was the fourth Australian to be declared a vexatious litigant. As the first person declared by the High Court, his declaration the next year by the Victorian Supreme Court (its third) made him the first person to be declared in two jurisdictions. Despite his declarations and being gaoled a number of times for contempt of court, Collins continued as a legal 'maverick' into the 1970s. In providing context for Collins' litigation this article will demonstrate the difficulties faced by other litigants, the profession and the judiciary when dealing with an unpredictable, even aggressive, litigant who determinedly challenges authority. Drawing on recent psychiatric literature it will also demonstrate that the vexatious litigant sanction is an inadequate response to the challenge a litigant, such as Collins, presents to the courts.