Which is bad news for his detractors in the Establishment, who say that even though Riches' filings are routinely dismissed almost as quickly as he can write them, his hobby drains money and resources from the legal system. "It is not clear whether these outlandish pleadings are products of actual mental illness or simply a hobby . . . Although they are amusing to the average reader, they do nothing more than clog the machinery of justice, interfering with the court's ability to address the needs of the genuinely aggrieved," wrote U.S. district judge Gregory A. Presnell in an opinion dismissing a 2007 suit (Riches had accused Steve Jobs of hiring O.J. Simpson as a hit man). "It is time for them to stop." In 2010, prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's office in Lexington, Kentucky, sought an unprecedented nationwide injunction against Riches, claiming that if he wasn't stopped, the government would "suffer irreparable harm." A judge in Kentucky granted the request, giving the Bureau of Prisons the authority to review his outgoing mail. Riches, who considered the injunction unconstitutional, responded by suing Hulk Hogan, employing a prisonmate to put the petition in the mail. He filed a few more suits until his release.
"Enjoining him strikes me as a violation of his due-process rights, which include access to the courts," says John Capowski, a law professor at Widener University in Pennsylvania. "Simply because a person files frivolous lawsuits doesn't mean the person will not have or does not also have a legitimate claim. Closing off the courts to his legitimate claims would be wrong." Not everyone has such a charitable view of Riches. "He's insane," says Darren McKinney, the spokesman for the American Tort Reform Association. "There is no way to logically justify what he does."
Questioning the mental health of a man who peppers his legal writing with mentions of brain-devouring aliens and time-traveling presidents may seem understandable—Riches sued LeBron James for failing to build a UFO-defense system for his prison. While he was at Federal Medical Center (FMC) Lexington, a federal prison in Kentucky, in 2009, Riches says, a prison psychiatrist diagnosed him with schizophrenia and several personality disorders. But Riches insists he's not crazy—he's merely "prone to doing irrational things." According to Dr. Gorgens, those "things" amount to a fairly major case of emotional projection—seeking to evoke in others emotions he can't process himself. "Riches may not describe himself as feeling hopeless, despondent, or powerless because he's outsourced it to the environment. If only it weren't for the collateral damage, it's really a pretty adaptive strategy."
Riches finds work-arounds to try to avoid running afoul of the law, filing under aliases or other people's names, or shifting jurisdictions when a particular judge threatens to hold him in contempt of court. "While his actions violate court rules, I don't believe they're a crime, and not one for which he likely would be charged," Capowski says. Silencing Riches would be costly for the courts, which would have to invest more time and effort in imposing sanctions and attempting to collect fines, which Riches likely can't (or won't) pay anyway. "The difficulties and downsides of stopping Riches may be greater than allowing him to continue," Capowski says.