Courtroom Junkie

One thing I would never wish on anyone is to come across a courtroom junkie. For those not familiar with this term – the courtroom junkie is hooked on litigation. He sends legal letter after legal letter and launches court applications, one after another. Even when our courtroom junkie fails repeatedly and miserably in his attempts at legal bullying, he goes straight back to court with his next issue. I believe that he is addicted and is no different from the gambling addict who returns to the roulette table or the alcoholic who blindly goes back to the bottle.

After years of observing this little known phenomenon, I would like to offer the following proposition: For whatever reason, courtroom junkies are unable to handle normal one-on-one communication, especially in conflict situations. And because the courts and the legal process somewhat depersonalize and sterilize matters, these socially inadequate junkies choose to carry out their harassing assaults on others against a legal backdrop.

Furthermore, the courtroom junkie is able to maintain control over the other party by subjecting his victim to the court experience and all that goes with it, over and over again. His basic rationale is, “If I can’t control the process, then neither can you.” And so the judge’s verdict becomes the final word. It doesn’t matter that our courtroom junkie has no control, because what is most important to him is that his opponent is not in control.

As his mouthpiece, the courtroom junkie will often hire and hide behind the services of avaricious, aggressive and uncompassionate lawyers – all reflections of himself. Through them, he believes he is able to increase his power to inflict suffering on his victim and this gives him pleasure. To add insult to injury, it’s not uncommon for our courtroom addict to lie or distort facts, glibly and shamelessly, in his legal documents and through his legal counsel – in order to convince the court that it is he who is the victim! A reverse projection! But ultimately, it’s of little consequence to him when he loses his case. He is victorious in causing chaos and disruption to his opponent’s life and this accomplishment is satisfying enough for him. And so he will return obsessively to the judge’s bench.

You see, a courtroom junkie’s severely limited interpersonal skills compel him to relate to the other through a third party – the impersonal court and the lawyers. In psychological jargon this unhealthy way of relating is called ‘triangulation.’

One can almost feel sorry for our courtroom junkie. He typically has no insight and he has even less ability to self-reflect and introspect. He does not learn from his mistakes or failures. But an addiction is an addiction. Our junkie loves to exercise power over others and, should his own will and decision-making ability be curtailed, he will eagerly seek to have his opponent’s will and decision-making removed and transferred to any other. To this end, he will happily create legal mincemeat out of the crumbs of his former failed cases.

Once sensitized to this phenomenon, one can easily spot the courtroom junkie in courthouse corridors and halls. He is usually dressed in his finest attire and he oozes a false sense of self-righteousness and pseudo-confidence.  He can often be seen together with his lawyers – his arms laden with his ‘legal’ files and ‘exhibits.’ And of course, needless to say, he will be well-off financially but will often claim to be impoverished.

Please don’t get me wrong. Without a doubt, the legal system is a fundamental part of any functioning society. If used responsibly and for the right reasons, it is essential for the maintenance of law and order.

But beware of the courtroom junkie! For him, the courts and the legal process are there to be abused as vehicles to avoid direct contact with his opponent – contact which he abhors. But above all, the courts enable him to exercise vicarious control over the other. Not letting go, he causes havoc in his opponent’s life.

Regrettably, addictive behavior is a modern day malady. And addiction to the legal process is no exception. Like other types of addicts, our courtroom junkie needs his fix! Upon launching his next court case and being undeterred by his previous losses, he becomes animated and excited – just like other types of junkies on the threshold of their next fix. Holding on, like a bulldog with a rag in its mouth, he feels he is in control again.


About the Author
Rena Teeger was born in South Africa, and lived in Israel from 1979 to 1988, when she returned to South Africa with her family. She is the mother of four daughters. In 2004 Rena returned to live on a small rural moshav in central Israel. She is a qualified teacher who taught for many years at a religious Jewish day school. Rena spends her days writing and editing.