Some examples may be amusing, but the problem is not. Millions of dollars a year are spent defending against lawsuits that never should have been brought. For example, when several states enacted a requirement that a doctor has to sign a paper saying that someone is actually sick, asbestos lawsuits dropped by an average of 90 percent.
The consequences of abrogating judicial quality control over lawsuits are not just economic; social interactions are also poisoned by the threat that one might be sued over almost anything. Nearly 80 percent of middle and high school teachers have been threatened with lawsuits or accused of rights violations by students. That threat is always in the back of your mind when you stand up in front of a class. As Ben Stein puts it, "In this country, the system of laws is such that a trial lawyer can say any damned thing in a claim letter -- any fantasy, however fictitious -- send it off, and next thing you know, you are shelling out time and money defending yourself against a fantasy. It is a nightmare, only it's real."
It was not always so. Our founders refused to delegate the fearsome power to summon others to court into private hands. When they created the federal courts, they specifically provided in the 1792 Process Act that every court order, including the writ of summons ordering someone to answer civil charges, had to be signed off on by a judge. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries this federal law was understood as keeping court orders, including the writ of summons in civil cases, "under the immediate supervision and control of the court," in the words of a 1884 federal circuit court. The practice was for the lawyer and the plaintiff to appear before the judge, or the clerk of court, and explain the grounds on which he wished to bring a lawsuit. The court would review the proposed lawsuit and decide whether it was plausible enough to compel the defendant to respond. If it wasn't, the judge would dismiss the case right then and there, without requiring the defendant to spend time and money responding, and the disappointed would-be litigant could appeal.
Today we still follow that traditional procedure of preliminary judicial review for reasonableness before intruding on someone's privacy in most other situations. Government agencies are required to have a judge review a subpoena before you are required to answer it; the police have to get a warrant from a judge before they can search your property except in exigent circumstances; a judge must review a summons in a criminal case before it is issued; and federal judges must review every case brought by a poor person who cannot afford to pay the filing fee before issuing a summons. The only exception where we allow state power to be exercised privately without any judicial quality control is in summoning someone to answer civil charges if the plaintiff can afford to pay the filing fee (currently $350).