Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 18.2. Crimes and Offenses Generally
Chapter 10. Crimes Against the Administration of Justice
9/27/2021

Article 4. Barratry.

§ 18.2-451. Definitions; application and construction of article.

(a) "Barratry" is the offense of stirring up litigation.

(b) A "barrator" is an individual, partnership, association or corporation who or which stirs up litigation.

(c) "Stirring up litigation" means instigating or attempting to instigate a person or persons to institute a suit at law or equity.

(d) "Instigating" means bringing it about that all or part of the expenses of the litigation are paid by the barrator or by a person or persons (other than the plaintiffs) acting in concert with the barrator, unless the instigation is justified.

(e) "Justified" means that the instigator is related by blood or marriage to the plaintiff whom he instigates, or that the instigator is entitled by law to share with the plaintiff in money or property that is the subject of the litigation or that the instigator has a direct interest in the subject matter of the litigation or occupies a position of trust in relation to the plaintiff; or that the instigator is acting on behalf of a duly constituted legal aid society approved by the Virginia State Bar which offers advice or assistance in all kinds of legal matters to all members of the public who come to it for advice or assistance and are unable because of poverty to pay legal fees.

(f) "Direct interest" means a personal right or a pecuniary right or liability.

This article shall not be applicable to attorneys who are parties to contingent fee contracts with their clients where the attorney does not protect the client from payment of the costs and expense of litigation, nor shall this article apply to any matter involving annexation, zoning, bond issues, or the holding or results of any election or referendum, nor shall this article apply to suits pertaining to or affecting possession of or title to real or personal property, regardless of ownership, nor shall this article apply to suits involving the legality of assessment or collection of taxes or the rates thereof, nor shall this article apply to suits involving rates or charges or services by common carriers or public utilities, nor shall this article apply to criminal prosecutions, nor to the payment of attorneys by legal aid societies approved by the Virginia State Bar, nor to proceedings to abate nuisances. Nothing herein shall be construed to be in derogation of the constitutional rights of real parties in interest to employ counsel or to prosecute any available legal remedy under the laws of this Commonwealth.

Code 1950, § 18.1-388; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15.

§ 18.2-452. Barratry unlawful.

Any person, if an individual, who shall engage in barratry shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor; and if a corporation, may be fined not more than $10,000. If the corporation be a foreign corporation, its certificate of authority to transact business in Virginia shall be revoked by the State Corporation Commission.

Code 1950, §§ 18.1-389, 18.1-390; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15.

§ 18.2-453. Aiders and abettors.

A person who aids and abets a barrator by giving money or rendering services to or for the use or benefit of the barrator for committing barratry shall be guilty of barratry and punished as provided in § 18.2-452.

Code 1950, § 18.1-391; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15.

§ 18.2-454. Enjoining barratry.

Suits to enjoin barratry may be brought by the Attorney General or the attorney for the Commonwealth in the appropriate circuit court.

Code 1950, § 18.1-392; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15.

§ 18.2-455. Unprofessional conduct; revocation of license.

Conduct that is made illegal by this article on the part of an attorney at law or any person holding license from the Commonwealth to engage in a profession is unprofessional conduct. Upon hearing pursuant to the provisions of § 54.1-3935, or other statute applicable to the profession concerned, if the defendant be found guilty of barratry, his license to practice law or any other profession shall be revoked for such period as provided by law.

Code 1950, § 18.1-393; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15.