United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
January 14, 2004.
HERMENEJILDO MUNOZ, Plaintiff
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
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
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
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
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).