Michael Melnitzky

Patek Philippe watch timepiece Above the Law.JPGWe sure do love pro se litigants. Like the guy who filed this notice of appeal. Or the loon who filed this lawsuit against Arm & Hammer. And, of course, there’s Aaron Charney (although he now has counsel).
Today we introduce you to Michael Melnitzky, who served as the principal art conservator at Sotheby’s for almost three decades. From the NYT:

[W]hen his wife filed for divorce in 1994, Mr. Melnitzky became something else: a litigator. A prolific one. And although he has no law degree and only himself as a client, he has never been busier.

Through a series of self-fashioned lawsuits and appeals, issues that might have been settled with his divorce have gone on for 13 years, 3 years longer than his marriage.

He has sued virtually everyone involved: one of his former lawyers, his wife’s lawyer, three banks, five judges and a psychiatrist appointed by the court to evaluate his mental health. In unrelated cases, he has sued a neighbor, a thrift shop, the city and his former employer. And he has almost always lost.

Unlike so many pro se litigants, Melnitzky is neither incarcerated nor impecunious. But in terms of his psychology, he fits the pro se profile:

At a recent hearing, an opposing lawyer called him a “serial litigator” who was turning the legal system into a “hobby” at the expense of the people he sued.

Mr. Melnitzky takes exception to such characterizations, as he does to the mention of obsession.

“It’s not an obsession; it’s a cause,” he said. “Would you call the fight against Nazis an obsession?”

Melnitzky is a Holocaust survivor. But despite that fact, we respectfully question whether it’s appropriate to compare the worldwide struggle against Fascism and genocide to litigation over a watch collection (even a very nice one — it includes timepieces by Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin).
The Marriage Lasted 10 Years. The Lawsuits? 13 Years, and Counting. [New York Times]