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Catherine Grimes v. Joliet Police Officer Prochaska


December 20, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge


Counsel for plaintiff Catherine Grimes ("Grimes") has filed a Complaint at Law against nearly 35 defendants -- 16 City of Joliet police officers, five Sergeant and one Detective in that police department, its Police Chief Fred Hayes, the City of Joliet itself, a half dozen members of the Will County Gang Suppression Unit, Will County Sheriff Paul J. Kaupas, the County of Will itself and two ATF-associated individuals -- that could well serve as a poster child for how not to comply with the Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 8(a)(2) mandate of a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Grimes' attorney Chris Rouskey has managed to devote 75 pages to 35 counts of needlessly repetitive allegations, while any thoughtfully prepared pleading would have occupied only a small fraction of that space, carved up into many fewer counts.*fn1

In part, what is particularly troubling about the excessively prolix Complaint -- which is hereby stricken sua sponte, albeit with leave to replead -- is not that its allegations reflect the more common cause of overly lengthy pleading (the use of fact pleading in accordance with state law practice, instead of the concept of notice pleading required in federal litigation), but rather that the allegations provide insufficient notice pleading despite the length of the Complaint. Attorney Rouskey's drafting conveys no idea (1) of the context in which the alleged excessive force (which would violate 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983")) took place or (2) just which of the defendants actually engaged in inflicting such excessive force and which of the defendants assertedly violated Section 1983 by their failure to intervene when other defendants did so.*fn2

Although this memorandum order will not attempt a full-scale effort at teaching a course in federal pleading and practice, one other basic point bears mention. That has to do with the major tension (perhaps an understatement) between the principle exemplified by Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978), which confirms the nonexistence of respondeat superior liability for Section 1983 purposes, and the joinder as defendants of Police Chief Hayes (Count XXIV), the City of Joliet (Count XXV), Will County Sheriff Kaupas (Count XXXII), Will County (Count XXXIII) and ATF Acting Director B. Todd Jones (Count XXXV).

That effort by Grimes' counsel has glossed over (or perhaps more accurately, has ignored entirely) the fact that proximate cause must be shown where a Section 1983 defendant is charged with failure to train or failure to supervise. That requirement demands proof by Grimes that such failure has actually been a cause of the individual officers' imposition of excessive force or their failure to intervene in their encounter with her. This memorandum order expresses no view as to whether that calls for a "but for" showing*fn3 or some other standard of proof -- that remains for another day if those defendants are kept in the case -- but the present Complaint plainly falls short in that respect.

In any event, it is too early to address whatever potential substantive deficiencies the Complaint may contain.*fn4 Attorney

Rouskey is granted until January 3, 2012 to file a self-contained Amended Complaint (including the delivery of a Judge's Copy to this Court's chambers), and a minute order has been issued contemporaneously with this memorandum order to set an initial status hearing date and to establish procedures to be followed before that hearing date.

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