Judge Fires Blistering Opinion in Shotgun Complaint Case

A federal appellate court judge has scolded an attorney for filing a shotgun complaint, a term used to define a complaint that contains multiple counts, each incorporating by reference the preceding allegation with no clear cause of action asserted.

During oral argument on a foreclosure matter before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, attorney Kenneth Lay of Birmingham, Alabama, acknowledged his “shotgun” complaints may be “an issue in federal court,” but they “are not disfavored in Alabama courts.”

“I understand [the court’s] problem with shotgun pleadings, and I’m not gonna argue about that,” Lay reportedly said. In the opinion that followed, the court chided Lay for filing a clearly deficient complaint as part of a scheme “engineered to delay or prevent execution of a foreclosure judgment on a residence and the consequent eviction of its occupants.”

Lay “effectuated this scheme by filing a multi-count, incomprehensible complaint that flouted the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and this circuit’s well-established precedent,” Judge Gerald Tjoflat wrote.

In addition to upholding the trial judge’s dismissal of the case, Tjoflat said the frivolous filings constituted an abuse of judicial process and ordered Lay to show cause within twenty-one days why he should not be ordered to pay the defendants’ double their costs for defending the appeal.

“All told, Mr. Lay sought and obtained 10 extension requests from this court,” the opinion said.

In upholding the lower court’s dismissal, Tjoflat wrote that the amended complaint “patently violates Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, which requires a plaintiff to plead ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.’ At 28 pages and having incorporated all 123 paragraphs of allegations into all 16 counts, it is neither ‘short’ nor ‘plain.'”

“Put colloquially: garbage in, garbage out,” Tjoflat wrote.

“Tolerating such behavior constitutes toleration of obstruction of justice,” he said.

—Source: law.com

%d bloggers like this: