Wilson v. Hinton et al
ORDER denying without prejudice Defendants' 3 Motion to Dismiss, and striking 2 Plaintiff's Complaint. Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint on or before March 13, 2018. Please see Order for details.Signed by Judge Marcia Morales Howard on 2/12/2018. (MMG)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
HARRY LEE WILSON,
Case No. 3:17-cv-1045-J-34MCR
A. HINTON, et al.,
THIS CAUSE is before the Court on consideration of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
(Motion, Doc. 3), filed September 17, 2017, and Defendants’ Memorandum of Law in
Support of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Supporting Memorandum, Doc. 9), filed
September 19, 2017.
In the Motion and Supporting Memorandum, Defendants,
Jacksonville Sheriff Officers A. Hinton, T.D. Yorkton, T.L. Batrous, and Detective Medlock
(Jacksonville Officers), seek dismissal of Harry L. Wilson’s pro se Complaint against them
(Complaint, Doc. 2). In his Complaint, Wilson broadly alleges that the Jacksonville Officers
subjected him to sexual brutality, sexual harassment, and police brutality. See Complaint
at 1-2. In their Motion, the Jacksonville Officers contend that Wilson’s complaint is due to
be dismissed as it represents a shotgun pleading, fails to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted, and that the Jacksonville Officers are immune from suit under both state
and federal law. Motion to Dismiss at 1-2. Wilson filed a response the Jacksonville
Officer’s Motion (Response, Doc. 28), on January 19, 2018, generally asserting that his
case should proceed. Upon review of the parties’ filings and the relevant law, the Court
determines that Wilson’s Complaint should be stricken and he should be given the
opportunity to replead.
While pro se complaints are to be held to a less stringent standard than those
drafted by an attorney, Wright v. Newsome, 795 F.2d 964, 967 (11th Cir. 1986), the pro se
litigant must still be required to “‘conform to procedural rules.’” Riley v. Fairbanks Capital
Corp., 222 F. App’x 897, 898 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Loren v. Sasser, 309 F.3d 1296,
1304 (11th Cir. 2002)). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) (Rule(s)). “‘A complaint need not specify in detail the precise
theory giving rise to recovery. All that is required is that the defendant be on notice as to
the claim being asserted against him and the grounds on which it rests.’” Evans v. McClain
of Ga., Inc., 131 F.3d 957, 964 n.2 (11th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). Despite Rule 8(a)’s
liberal pleading requirement, “a complaint must still contain either direct or inferential
allegations respecting all material elements of a cause of action.” Snow v. DirecTV, Inc.,
450 F.3d 1314, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006) (emphasis omitted).
Similarly, Rule 10(b) provides, in pertinent part:
A party must state its claims . . . in numbered
paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a
single set of circumstances. . . . If doing so would
promote clarity, each claim founded on a separate
transaction or occurrence . . . must be stated in a
separate count . . . .
Rule 10(b). See Magluta v. Samples, 256 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2001). Rules 8 and
10 work together “‘to require the pleader to present his claims discretely and succinctly, so
that his adversary can discern what he is claiming and frame a responsive pleading, the
court can determine which facts support which claims and whether the plaintiff has stated
any claims upon which relief can be granted, and, at trial, the court can determine that
evidence which is relevant and that which is not.’” Fikes v. City of Daphne, 79 F.3d 1079,
1082 (11th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). “Where the allegations of a complaint are ‘vague
and ambiguous - leaving the reader to guess at precisely what the plaintiff [is] claiming,’
the court should order a repleader.” Holbrook v. Castle Key Ins. Co., No. 09-16029, 2010
WL 5158201, at * 1 (11th Cir. Dec. 20, 2010) (unpublished opinion) (quoting Byrne v.
Nezhat, 261 F.3d 1075, 1128 (11th Cir. 2001)).
Moreover, in a case with multiple
defendants, the complaint should contain specific allegations with respect to each
defendant; generalized allegations “lumping” multiple defendants together are insufficient
to permit the defendants, or the Court, to ascertain exactly what plaintiff is claiming. See
West Coast Roofing and Waterproofing, Inc. v. Johns Manville, Inc., 287 F. App’x 81, 86
(11th Cir. 2008) (citing Ambrosia Coal & Const. Co. v. Pages Morales, 482 F.3d 1309,
1317 (11th Cir. 2007) and Brooks v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Fla., Inc., 116 F.3d
1364, 1381 (11th Cir. 1997)).
The Eleventh Circuit has been explicit in expressing its displeasure of “shotgun
pleadings.” See e.g., Weiland v. Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office, 792 F.3d 1313,
1321 (11th Cir. 2015) (noting “thirty-year salvo of criticism aimed at shotgun pleadings,
and there is no ceasefire in sight”); Cook v. Randolph County, 573 F.3d 1143, 1151 (11th
Cir. 2009) (“We have had much to say about shotgun pleadings, none of which is
favorable.”) (collecting cases); Cramer v. State of Fla., 117 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir.
1997) (deeming shotgun pleadings “altogether unacceptable”). As relevant here, a
shotgun pleading can be characterized as containing “conclusory, vague, and immaterial
facts not obviously connected to any particular cause of action,” Weiland, 792 F.3d at
1322, n.12 (collecting cases), or where the complaint asserts “multiple claims against
multiple defendants without specifying which of the defendants are responsible for which
acts or omissions, or which of the defendants the claim is brought against.” Id., n.14
(collecting cases). As the Court in Cramer recognized, “[s]hotgun pleadings, whether filed
by plaintiff or defendant, exact an intolerable toll on the trial court’s docket, lead to
unnecessary and unchanneled discovery, and impose unwarranted expense on the
litigants, the court and the court’s parajudicial personnel and resources.” Cramer, 117
F.3d at 1263. When faced with the burden of deciphering a shotgun pleading, it is the trial
court’s obligation to strike the pleading on its own initiative, and force the plaintiff to replead
to the extent possible under Rule 11, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
(admonishing district court for not striking shotgun complaint on its own initiative); see also
Weiland, 792 F.3d at 1321 n.10 (“[W]e have also advised that when a defendant fails to
[move for a more definite statement], the district court ought to take the initiative to dismiss
or strike the shotgun pleading and give the plaintiff an opportunity to replead.”).
Here, Wilson’s Complaint fails to comply with Rules 8 and 10, and is properly
characterized as a shotgun pleading. Wilson titled his two-page handwritten Complaint
“Conspiracy,” and implies that the Jacksonville Officers conspired to injure him with “sexual
brutality, sexual harassment, and police brutality.” Complaint at 1. Wilson also suggests
that in his encounter with and arrest by the officers, which allegedly led to the assault and
harassment claims that are the subject of the Complaint, the Jacksonville Officers did not
provide him with Miranda warnings. Id. at 2. However, in his Complaint, Wilson does not
reference any law, statute, or identify the particular elements of the claims for which he is
seeking relief. Nor does he set out allegations to support the elements for his potential
claims for relief. Snow, 450 F.3d at 1320. As such, Wilson’s complaint is properly
characterized as a shotgun pleading that must be stricken. In light of this determination,
the Court will give Wilson the opportunity to file a proper amended complaint. 1
To assist unrepresented parties such as Wilson, the Court has added a section to
its website designed to help pro se litigants, with a link entitled “Proceeding Without a
http://www.flmd.uscourts.gov/pro_se/ There, Wilson will find an overview of the litigation
process, a copy of the Local Rules, and instructions and an online tool which Wilson may
be used (but is not required to do so) for drafting a proper complaint. Wilson will find a
copy of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the federal and state courthouses' public
Additionally, the Jacksonville Chapter of the Federal Bar Association
operates a Legal Information Program on Tuesdays from 11:00 am to 12:30 p.m. on the
9th floor of the Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse, 300 North Hogan Street,
Jacksonville, Florida 32202. Through that program, unrepresented litigants may obtain
information from a lawyer on a limited basis for free. More information about the program
is available on the Court’s website at www.flmd.uscourts.gov/pro_se/docs/proseLegal_Assist.htm. Wilson is nonetheless cautioned that upon reviewing his subsequent
pleadings, the Court will not rewrite his Complaint, or any amended complaint, to find a
claim. See Peterson v. Atlanta Hous. Auth., 998 F.2d 904, 912 (11th Cir. 1993).
The Eleventh Circuit has directed that “[w]here a more carefully drafted complaint might state a claim, a
plaintiff must be given at least one chance to amend the complaint before the district court dismisses the
action with prejudice.” Bank v. Pitt, 928 F.2d 1108, 1112 (11th Cir. 1991) overruled in part, by Wagner v.
Daewoo Heavy Indus. Am. Corp., 314 F.3d 542 (11th Cir. 2002) (en banc) (finding that leave to amend need
not be given sua sponte where a plaintiff who is represented by counsel does not seek leave to amend).
See also Carter v. HSBC Mort. Servs., Inc., 622 Fed. Appx. 783, 786 (11th Cir. 2015) (applying Bank v. Pitt
to pro se plaintiff); Spear v. Nix, 215 Fed. Appx. 896, 902 (11th Cir. 2007) (same); Andela v. Univ. of Miami,
692 F. Supp. 2d 1356, 1377 n.5 (S.D. Fla. 2010) (same).
In light of the foregoing, it is ORDERED:
1. Plaintiff, Harry Lee Wilson’s Complaint (Doc. 2), is STRICKEN.
2. Defendants A. Hinton, T.D. Yorkton, T.L. Batrous, and Detective Medlock’s
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 3) and Memorandum of Law in Support (Doc. 9) are
DENIED without prejudice.
3. Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint consistent with the directives of this
Order, on or before March 13, 2018. Failure to do so may result in dismissal of
DONE AND ORDERED in Jacksonville, Florida this 12th day of February, 2018.
Counsel of Record
Pro Se Parties
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