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United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

January 14, 2004.

VILLAGE OF BLUE ISLAND, et al., Defendants

The opinion of the court was delivered by: MILTON SHADUR, Senior District Judge


Three police officers with the Village of Blue Island — Jamie Schultz, Frank Podbielniak, and Craig Kincaid (collectively "Officers") — have filed their Answer, including affirmative defendants ("ADs"), to the Complaint brought against them and the Village itself by Hermenejildo Munoz ("Munoz"). This memorandum order is issued sua sponte because a number of problems require the striking of that responsive pleading (but with leave being granted, of course, to cure those problems by the prompt filing of an Amended Answer).

To begin with, Answer ¶¶ 1, 2, 6 and 7 impermissibly seek to deny the corresponding allegations of Munoz' Complaint on the premise that what Munoz has alleged "constitute legal conclusions." That is of course dead wrong, for the Supreme Court itself has made it plain that the use of legal conclusions is totally appropriate in the federal system of notice pleading — see App. ¶ 2 to State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Riley, 199 F.R.D. 276, 279 (N.D. Ill. 2001). Accordingly Answer ¶¶ 1, 2, 6 and 7 are stricken so that Officers' counsel can instead submit Page 2 appropriately responsive answers to Munoz' allegations.

  Next, Officers (through their counsel) simply and flatly deny just about all of the other Complaint allegations as well. Such denials are of course entirely proper where they can be advanced in the objective good faith required of every party and every lawyer under Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 11, but that usage seems questionable in a number of respects here. For example, do Officers really deny that they were "acting under color of state law" (Answer ¶ 9) when they became involved with Munoz on October 11, 2001?*fn1 And there are a number of other Complaint allegations as to which the propriety of outright denials would seem doubtful (see, e.g., Complaint ¶¶ 11-14). No findings by this Court are either made or implied here, but when Officers' counsel returns to the drawing board he must exercise more care in determining exactly which allegations may fairly be denied as such.

  Finally, none of the ADs conforms to the standards of Rule 8(c) and the caselaw applying that rule — see App. ¶ 5 to State Farm. In that respect;

  1. A.D. 1 directly contradicts (rather than accepting) the allegations of the Complaint, and qualified immunity simply does not enter the picture where (as here) it will Page 3 have to be determined as a factual matter whether excessive force was applied to Munoz,

2. A.D. 2 is likewise improper, because it is at odds with (a) Complaint ¶ 35's assertion that probable cause was lacking and (b) Count III's allegations of trumped-up charges against Munoz.
3. A.D. 3 is directly at cross-purposes with Munoz' allegations in Count III, so it too is impermissible.
  For all those reasons, and because it is desirable to avoid a patchwork responsive pleading, the Answer is stricken in its entirety. As stated at the outset, leave is granted to Officers to file a self-contained Amended Answer conforming to what has been set out here, with an original and one copy of the Answer to be filed in this Court's chambers on or before January 27, 2004 (and with a copy to be served contemporaneously on Munoz' counsel).

  Finally, no charge is to be made to Officers by their counsel for the added work and expense incurred in correcting counsel's errors. Officers' counsel are ordered to apprise his clients to that effect by letter, with a copy to be transmitted to this Court's chambers as an informational matter (not for filing).

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