Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Not too long ago, I quoted Judge Easterbrook in a post titled No really, short and plain is enough. Below are those quotes, which are worth revisiting in light of Bell Atlantic:
It is enough to name the plaintiff and the defendant, state the nature of the grievance, and give a few tidbits (such as the date) that will let the defendant investigate. A full narrative is unnecessary. Kolupa v. Roselle Park Dist., 438 F.3d 713, 714 (2006).
This treatment went wrong at the first step: the belief that complaints must lay out facts corresponding to every “element” of a legal theory. That is a code-pleading approach, which the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure reject. One pleads “claims” (which is to say, grievances) rather than legal theories and factual specifics. The Supreme Court drove the point home in Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., holding that plaintiffs need not allege either the factual or legal “elements” of a prima facie case under the employment-discrimination laws. That conclusion is equally applicable to every other federal claim. It is why “[a]ny district judge (for that matter, any defendant) tempted to write ‘this complaint is deficient because it does not contain...’ should stop and think: What rule of law requires a complaint to contain that allegation?” It is also why “[a]ny decision declaring ‘this complaint is deficient because it does not allege X’ is a candidate for summary reversal, unless X is on the list in Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b).” *** Simpson's grievance was set out clearly enough to put the defendants on notice; no more is required. Simpson v. Nickel, 450 F.3d 303 (2006).