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Rousey v. Hilliard

June 3, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donald G. Wilkerson United States Magistrate Judge


Currently pending before the Court are Defendant Robert Hilliard's and Defendant Jay Merchant's Motions for a More Definite Statement (Docs. 16, 18). For the reasons set forth below, these motions are GRANTED.


On June 27, 2008, Plaintiff Kevin Rousey filed his complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1983,*fn1 alleging Defendants violated his First Amendment rights (Doc. 1). In alleging the claim, Plaintiff states:

10. Rousey has been active in Republic [sic] politics.

11. Each of the Defendants is aware of Rousey's political affiliation.

12. At all times Rousey has consistently performed his job duties in a manner consistent with the legitimate expectations of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

13. In retaliation for his affiliation with the Republican Party the defendants, acting collectively, have engaged in a pattern of harassment directed towards Rousey. Further, the defendants have materially altered the terms and conditions of his employment because of his affiliation with the Republican Party. As a result, Rousey has been forced to take a leave of absence from his position with the Department of Corrections.

14. As a direct and proximate result of the foregoing conduct, Rousey, in addition to the loss of certain liberties to which he is entitled to protection under the Constitution of the United States, has suffered emotional anguish and distress, humiliation, inconvenience, physical injury and pain, damage to his reputation, loss of employment benefits and the loss of the enjoyment of life.

(Doc. 1.) In lieu of an answer, Defendants Hilliard and Merchant filed motions for a more definite statement, arguing that paragraph 13 of the complaint, which contains the only operative factual allegations, is insufficient because it does not provide them with enough information to form an answer to the allegations or raise potential affirmative defenses. Further, they argue that paragraph 13 is so vague and ambiguous that they cannot in good faith admit or deny whether such acts occurred. Thus, they move under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e) asking the Court to order Plaintiff to provide a more definite statement identifying the specific acts of retaliation and material alterations in the terms and conditions of his employment, and the dates on which those acts occurred. In response, Plaintiff argues that the complaint is sufficient under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that a pleading provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citing Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The complaint must, however, "actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, by providing allegations that raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Windy City Metal Fabricators & Supply, Inc. v. CIT Technology Fin. Servs., Inc., 536 F.3d 663, 666 (7th Cir. 2008)). It must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."

Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 570. How many facts are required depends on the type of case. Limestone Development Corp., v. Village of Lemont, Illinois, 520 F.3d 797, 803 (7th Cir. 2008).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) allows a party to move for a more definite statement of a claim when a pleading "is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response." The motion must "point out the defects complained of and the details desired." "Encouraging a plaintiff to plead what few facts can be easily provided and will clearly be helpful serves to expedite resolution by quickly alerting the defendant to basic, critical factual allegations (that is, by providing 'fair notice' of the plaintiff's claim)." EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs. Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 780 (7th Cir. 2007). The Supreme Court has noted that a district court may use Rule 12(e) to adduce more factual allegations to protect the substance of a qualified immunity defense. Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, ...

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