James George Douris says he's unemployed.

But he's found a way to bide his time.

Over the last decade and more, the Upper Makefield resident, 59, has filed more than 30 lawsuits against municipalities, government officials, and others, often claiming discrimination because of his physical disabilities, and seeking damages. Nearly all have been dismissed.

Still, Douris' suits have kept coming - from a crudely justified argument that bidets should be installed in a courthouse bathroom, to an assertion that he should be able to keep an unregistered SUV as an "off-road wheelchair for hiking."

Now, prosecutors think they may have neutralized the core of many of Douris' complaints. They charged him with perjury, claiming he was not disabled and lied under oath about his ailments.

"Let's put it this way: He's as able as I am," said Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler.

In a probable-cause affidavit, authorities included photos that they say show Douris performing tasks outside his wheelchair, including painting the side of his house on a ladder and using a leaf blower on the roof.

Douris, an unemployed veteran who earned international attention in 2010 for seeking food stamps for his dog, did not respond to requests for comment left at his home. His court-appointed attorney also declined to discuss the case.

Thousands of lawsuits are filed nationwide every month, and experts say it's impossible to determine how many could be considered frivolous, or how much they might cost litigants and court systems.

"Frivolousness is in the eye of the beholder," said Stephen B. Burbank, a University of Pennsylvania law professor.

Some former judges said that while they are required to give each case a fair reading, they regularly dealt with wacky plaintiffs or flimsy lawsuits that seemed endless.

"One day, that complaint is going to be delivered to your office, usually on handwritten paper," said Robert Cindrich, a former federal judge in Pittsburgh. "You'll realize soon that 10 years from now, you'll be dealing with that same problem."

Stephen M. Orlofsky, a former federal appeals judge in Philadelphia, said that devoting time to such cases could take the focus away from valid ones - and that in court, time was a finite and valuable resource.

"It becomes a burden for the judge," he said, "and becomes a burden for the litigant he sues."

Suits were dismissed

Douris kicked off his litigious streak in the mid-1990s by getting into a legal tussle with state and county officials over the billing practices of his family plumbing business.

In 1999, he filed his first federal suit, claiming Bucks County did not hire him for a park maintenance job because of his alleged disabilities, which he said included carpel tunnel syndrome. A jury ruled in favor of the county. Douris lost an appeal.

By then, he was out of the plumbing business. In court filings, he wrote that he was unemployed.

Between 1999 and 2012, he filed 14 additional lawsuits against Bucks County and municipalities, and 16 appeals in those cases.

In nearly every instance, Douris, mostly acting as his own lawyer, argued that he had been discriminated against because of his disabilities, which came to include an inability to walk and the need to have a dog pull his wheelchair. In nearly every case, Douris' suits were dismissed - and not always kindly.

In one 2007 order, U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick wrote that Douris had "abused the system" and that "significant time and resources have been spent on plaintiff's meritless claims."

Douris, in that case, was arguing that his "right to be free to park" had been violated when he was issued parking tickets in Newtown Borough.

Surrick noted in his order that "there is no federally mandated 'right to park.' "

A dozen photos

In May, authorities say, Douris lied under oath in Bucks County Court. They say he told Judge Robert J. Mellon that he was too weak to hold a glass of water or take notes.

But authorities have a dozen photos since 2012 showing what they say is Douris performing tasks outside his wheelchair - from leaf-blowing to painting, and retrieving the wheelchair out of his car.

They also say that in a 2011 case, Douris submitted fake evidence to try to prove damages he suffered from a tree service he hired.

The bottom line, Heckler said, is that prosecutors believe Douris has built a whole life from a series of lies and that he has used those lies to try to benefit himself in court.

Heckler said a conviction could lead to jail time and cause the lies to unravel. And he hopes that might quash Douris' litigious appetite.

"He manages to just keep pulling this baloney," Heckler said, "and it needs to come to an end."

cpalmer@phillynews.com 609-217-8305

@cs_palmer