Legal abuse refers to the use of a legal system to cause mental distress on another person, whether that abuse is in the form of a threat to take legal action or within an otherwise legitimate hearing or case. This type of abuse is largely psychological and emotional in nature, and not typically physical, though it can lead to physical consequences as a result of improper legal outcomes. Legal abuse can also lead to a state of mind that is somewhat similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, in which a person feels helpless and is left with residual psychic trauma.
One of the most common, and potentially destructive, forms of legal abuse is the use of the legal system to harass or distress another person. This type of legal abuse can involve someone bringing a baseless civil case against another person, and using the hearing to bring up issues that may damage the reputation of the defendant without presenting any real evidence to support the claims of the plaintiff. Such lawsuits are often referred to as “vexatious litigation” and serve no real purpose, other than to launch an attack on another person.
Legal abuse can also involve the use of legal threats of action as a means of intimidating another person. Someone may threaten legal action against another person, in the hopes that the mere threat will be enough to bring about an end result that is advantageous for the one making the threat. This is especially abusive if the action is threatened against someone who is financially poor, since the person being threatened often dreads the financial obligations involved in a legal dispute. Legal abuse can also stem from the actions of those in the legal system during an otherwise legitimate hearing, such as a lawyer who is friends with a judge and uses the friendship to impact a decision.
This sort of abuse can result in mental trauma that is often referred to as legal abuse syndrome (LAS). LAS is often seen as a somewhat long-term form of trauma that continues to cause a person distress even after the initial incident of abuse has ended. Someone who is the victim of legal abuse through vexatious litigation, for example, may end up being distrustful of lawyers or the legal system in general. This can result in a sense of paranoia or depression due to feelings of helplessness, and may ultimately compound the legal problem that was the initial cause of the abuse.