Ellison v. St. Joseph's/Candler Health system, Inc.
ORDER denying #6 Motion to Strike. Signed by Magistrate Judge G. R. Smith on 2/7/17. (wwp)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
ST. JOSEPH’S / CANDLER
HEALTH SYSTEM, INC.,
Defendant St. Joseph’s / Candler Health System, Inc. removed this
employment discrimination (Title VII and § 1981) action from state
court. Doc. 1. It moved to strike matters in Naomi Ellison’s Complaint
(allegations and an exhibit) that it contends are immaterial, prejudicial,
and barred from publication. Doc. 6. Plaintiff amended her Complaint,
removing some of the challenged material, 1 see doc. 13 (Amended
Complaint); doc. 14 at 2 (explaining amendment removed allegations
Since Ellison removed Paragraph 42 from her Complaint, St. Joseph’s motion, to
the extent it seeks to strike that paragraph, is DENIED as moot. See, e.g., Malowney
v. Fed. Collection Deposit Grp , 193 F.3d 1342, 1345 n.1 (11th Cir. 1999) (“An
amended complaint supersedes an original complaint”).
referring to EEOC conciliation), and opposes the motion to strike the
remaining matters. Doc. 14.
Motions to strike allow a party to challenge “any redundant,
immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” 2 Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f)(2).
“Rule 12(f) reflects the inherent power of the Court to prune
down pleadings so as to expedite the administration of justice
and to prevent abuse of its process.” TracFone Wireless, Inc. v.
Zip Wireless Prods., Inc., 716 F.Supp.2d 1275, 1290 (N.D. Ga.
2010) (citing McNair v. Monsanto Co., 279 F.Supp.2d 1290, 1298
(M.D. Ga. 2003)). The Court should only exercise this discretion
if “the matter sought to be omitted has no possible relationship
to the controversy, may confuse the issues, or otherwise
prejudice a party.” Nankivil v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 216
F.R.D. 689, 691 (M.D. Fla. 2003) (internal quotation omitted).
This is not a high bar to meet.
Frazier v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc. , 2011 WL 709720 at * 1 (S.D. Ga.
2011). Such motions are “generally viewed with disfavor and are often
considered time wasters.”
TracFone , 716 F. Supp. 2d at 1290 (quotes
and cite omitted). That’s the case here.
The Rule requires that parties move to strike “before responding to the pleading.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f)(2). Since St. Joseph’s filed its motion to strike not before, but
contemporaneously with, its Answer, it is technically untimely. See, e.g., 5C C HARLES
A LAN W RIGHT , A RTHUR R. M ILLER , et al. F ED . P RAC . & P ROC . C IV . § 1380 (3d ed. 2016)
(noting that, despite authority to the contrary, allowing simultaneous motion to
strike and answer “is both somewhat illogical and a technical violation” of the Rule).
Despite that technicality, in the interest of expediency, the Court nevertheless
considers the merits of St. Joseph’s motion. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 1 (Rules should be
administered to secure, inter alia , the “speedy” determination of actions).
St. Joseph’s objects to Ellison’s inclusion, in the Complaint’s
allegations and attached exhibit, of the EEOC’s unfavorable
investigatory conclusions and references to the administrative
conciliation process. See doc. 6 at 4-5. The EEOC’s determinations are
not binding on this Court.
Young v. FedEx Express , 432 F. App’x 915,
917 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Moore v. Devine , 767 F.2d 1541, 1550-51
(11th Cir. 1985)); see also doc. 6 at 5 (citing Young ). But they are
potentially admissible,3 and “may be significant evidence.”
and cite omitted). References to those findings, therefore, are not subject
to be stricken. If St. Joseph’s is concerned that the references “will
confuse the relevant issues for the jury,” doc. 6 at 5, it will have ample
opportunity to clarify them, if not move in limine to prevent jury taint.
“In this circuit, it is well established that EEOC determinations are generally
admissible in bench trials,” but subject to more careful scrutiny in jury trials. Walker
v. Nationsbank of Fla. N.A. , 53 F.3d 1548, 1554 (11th Cir. 1995). The admissibility of
the determinations, assuming this case is ultimately tried by a jury, must be made
“on an individual basis, considering the evidence’s probative value and the danger of
unfair prejudice.” Lathem v. Dept. of Children & Youth Servs. , 172 F.3d 786, 791
(11th Cir. 1999). This Court cannot say, at this point, that the instant EEOC
determinations have no possible relationship to the controversy.
Finally, its argument that the publication of the EEOC’s letter is
prohibited by 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(a) is similarly unavailing. 4
Accordingly, St. Joseph’s Motion to Strike, doc. 6, is DENIED .
SO ORDERED , this 7th day of February, 2017.
St. Joseph’s argues that “the determination letter,” see doc. 1-1 at 20-21; doc. 13-2,
must be stricken because “[n]othing said or done during and as a part of [the EEOC’s
informal conciliation process] may be made public by the Commission, its officers or
employees, or used as evidence in a subsequent proceeding without the written
consent of the persons concerned.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b). Publication, in violation
of the prohibition, fetches up to a $1,000 fine, a one-year prison sentence, or both.
Id. St. Joseph’s contends the statute applies because of the letter’s invitation of the
parties to “join with [the EEOC] in reaching a just resolution of this matter,” and
statement that “[i]n this regard, conciliation of this matter has now begun.” It also
refers to an attached “conciliation agreement,” which was not attached to the copy of
the letter Ellison filed with either version of her Complaint. See doc. 1-1 at 20-21;
St. Joseph’s argument is facially plausible, but no more. The Supreme Court
discussed this statutory section in determining the scope of judicial review of the
EEOC’s conciliation efforts.
Mach Mining v. Equal Employment Opportunity
Comm’n , ___ U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 1645, 1655 (2015). The Court refused to sanction
detailed review of the process because it would “flout Title VII’s protection of the
confidentiality of conciliation efforts.”
Id. It also rejected the Government’s
proposal, which would limit review to “‘bookend’ letters,” including notice of the
commencement of the conciliation process. Id . at 1653. By requiring courts to
engage in a review of the conciliation process that goes beyond such letters, the Court
necessarily found that they were not subject to § 2000e-5(b)’s confidentiality
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