Cejas v. Paramo et al

Filing 111

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION re Plaintiff's 97 MOTION to Strike Affirmative Defenses filed by Andrew A. Cejas. Objections to R&R due by 10/1/2019 and Replies due by 10/10/2019. Signed by Magistrate Judge William V. Gallo on 9/9/2019.(All non-registered users served via U.S. Mail Service)(ag)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 Case No.: 14-CV-1923-WQH(WVG) ANDREW A. CEJAS, Plaintiff, 12 13 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION RE: PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO STRIKE AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES v. 14 15 16 DANIEL PARAMO et al., [Doc. No. 97.] Defendants. 17 Plaintiff moves to strike all thirteen affirmative defenses in Defendants’ Answer to 18 the First Amended Complaint. This Court RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff’s motion to 19 strike be DENIED in its entirety. 20 I. BACKGROUND 21 On May 17, 2018, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint with leave of Court. 22 (Doc. No. 59.) Defendants filed an Answer on May 10, 2019 after motion practice, which 23 resulted in the Court granting-in-part a motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 90.) The Answer 24 contains thirteen affirmative defenses along with responses to the factual and preamble 25 paragraphs from the First Amended Complaint. Plaintiff in turn, filed a “response” in the 26 form of a motion to “strike or set aside” Defendants’ affirmative defenses. (Doc. No. 97.) 27 The motion is a paragraph-by-paragraph response to the Answer. In many places, Plaintiff 28 simply asserts that he agrees or disagrees with corresponding portions of the Answer. (See, 1 14-CV-1923-WQH(WVG) 1 e.g., Doc. No. 97 at ¶¶ 1-2, 4-7 (agreeing); 3 (disagreeing).) In response to Defendants’ 2 contentions that they “lack sufficient knowledge or information to admit or deny the 3 remaining allegations, and on that basis, deny the allegations,” (see, e.g., Doc. No. 94 ¶¶ 2, 4 9, 11-13, 16-17, 23-24, 28-29, 38), Plaintiff asserts that Defendants do have sufficient 5 knowledge and information to admit the allegations, (e.g., id., at ¶¶ 2, 7, 9-17, 19, 23-24, 6 28-30, 32, 34, 38). As for the thirteen affirmative defenses, Plaintiff attempts to argue the 7 substantive merits of each defense. For example, in response to Defendants’ assertion of 8 the qualified immunity defense (Doc. No. 94 at 5), Plaintiff argues: 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity because their conduct was unconstitutional, and the federal First Amendment rights asserted [were] clearly established at the time of the alleged First Amendment violations. Defendants had fair notice that retaliation violated the First Amendment. Defendant[] Rutledge[’s] conduct did violate clearly established law of which a reasonable person would have known, and Rutledge[’s] action did not reasonably advance a legitimate correctional goal. Defendant[] Rutledge violated Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights, and [is] not entitled to qualified immunity. Defendant[] Rutledge did not act within the scope of discretion or in good faith. Defendant[] Rutledge carried out his threat to retaliate, and violated mandatory statutes, rules, regulations and practice not in good faith. Defendant[] Rutledge violated federal and state law. 17 18 (Doc. No. 97 at 7-8.) The motion proceeds in this manner in response to the first, second, 19 third, fourth, fifth, eleventh affirmative defenses. (Id. at 7-10, 12.) As to the remaining 20 affirmative defenses, Plaintiff simply asserts that Defendants cannot prevail. (Id. at 10- 21 12.) For example, in response to the eighth affirmative defense of “waiver,” Plaintiff 22 asserts: “Plaintiff has not [w]aived any claims violating to damages [sic] and/or injury 23 caused by Defendant Rutledge.” (Id. at 11.) 24 II. DISCUSSION 25 Plaintiff’s motion demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of 26 Answers and motions to strike affirmative defenses. The purpose of an Answer is simply 27 to give notice of the issues in dispute and to preserve defenses—not to litigate the merits 28 of the case or to assert detailed facts. United States v. All Assets Held at Bank Julius Baer 2 14-CV-1923-WQH(WVG) 1 & Co., 959 F. Supp. 2d 81, 116 n.21 (D.D.C. 2013) (noting that “one function of an answer” 2 is to identify “points of disagreement”); Garrett v. Walker, No. CIV S-06-1904-RRB-EFB- 3 P, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55829, at *3 (E.D. Cal. July 31, 2007) (“The purpose of the 4 answer is to simply admit or deny allegations of the complaint, not to test sufficiency of 5 evidence.”); Buford v. Vang, No. 00CV6496-REC-SMS-P, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24734, 6 at *10 (E.D. Cal. July 7, 2005) (“The function of the answer is to put the case at issue as to 7 all important matters alleged in the complaint that the defendant does not want to admit.”); 8 see also M.C. v. Antelope Valley Union High Sch. Dist., 858 F.3d 1189, 1199 (9th Cir. 9 2017). 10 Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), the Court may strike “an insufficient 11 defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent or scandalous” matter from the 12 pleadings. The purpose of Rule 12(f) is “to avoid the expenditure of time and money that 13 must arise from litigating spurious issues by disposing of those issues prior to trial.” 14 Whittlestone, Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 618 F.3d 970, 973 (9th Cir. 2010) (internal 15 quotations and citation omitted). Motions to strike are regarded with disfavor because 16 striking is such a drastic remedy. Freeman v. ABC Legal Servs., Inc., 877 F. Supp. 2d 919, 17 923 (N.D. Cal. 2012). 18 In the Ninth Circuit, “[t]he key to determining the sufficiency of pleading an 19 affirmative defense is whether it gives plaintiff fair notice of the defense.” Simmons v. 20 Navajo Cnty., Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1023 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Wyshak v. City Nat’l 21 Bank, 607 F.2d 824, 827 (9th Cir. 1979)). “Fair notice generally requires that the defendant 22 state the nature and grounds for the affirmative defense.” Roe v. City of San Diego, 289 23 F.R.D. 604, 608 (S.D. Cal. 2013). “The defendant must articulate the affirmative defense 24 clearly enough that the plaintiff is not a victim of unfair surprise. It does not, however, 25 require a detailed statement of facts.” Id. (citation and internal quotations omitted; 26 emphasis added); see also Kohler v. Flava Enters., Inc., 779 F.3d 1016, 1019 (9th Cir. 27 2015) (“[T]he ‘fair notice’ required by the pleading standards only require[s] describing 28 [an affirmative] defense in general terms.”) (internal quotations and citation omitted). 3 14-CV-1923-WQH(WVG) 1 Here, rather than argue that any affirmative defense is insufficient, redundant, 2 immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous, Plaintiff either argues the merits of various 3 defenses or provides a substantive response to other defenses. However, he fails to provide 4 any cognizable basis for the Court to strike any affirmative defense—for example, because 5 one is not a proper defense as a matter of law. The Court finds nothing improper about 6 Defendants’ affirmative defenses, which simply place Plaintiff on notice and fulfill the 7 purpose of such pleadings. Accordingly, because Plaintiff has not satisfied the standard 8 for striking any affirmative defense under Rule 12(f), his motion is wholly without merit 9 and should be DENIED. 10 11 12 III. CONCLUSION For the reasons set forth herein, this Court RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff’s motion to strike be DENIED. 13 This Report and Recommendation will be submitted to the United States District 14 Judge assigned to this case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. section 636(b)(1)(1988) 15 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b). 16 IT IS ORDERED that no later than October 1, 2019, any party to this action may 17 file written objections with the Court and serve a copy on all parties. The document shall 18 be captioned “Objections to Report and Recommendation.” 19 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that any reply to the objections shall be filed with the 20 Court and served on all parties no later than October 10, 2019. The parties are advised 21 that failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to raise those 22 objections on appeal of the Court’s order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). 23 IT IS SO ORDERED. 24 DATED: September 9, 2019 25 26 27 28 4 14-CV-1923-WQH(WVG)

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