Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Pleading Standards — Rule 8(a) — Prolix and Unintelligible Pleadings

The pro se plaintiff in Wilkinson v. Wells Fargo Bank Minnesota, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34287 (E.D. Wis. May 9, 2007) commenced this action with a ‛massive, nearly incomprehensible initial filing of roughly 200 pages“ in which his ‛central allegation … appear[ed] to be that numerous defendants have illegally attempted to collect a debt from him.“ After District Judge William Griesbach called the plaintiff’s attention to Rule 8(a), the plaintiff filed the same complaint again. In granting the defendants’ 12(b)(6) motion, the Court explained:

As to the all defendants, plaintiff has failed the most basic pleading requirement, namely, to set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). While the court realizes that plaintiff is proceeding pro se, and that the pleadings of a pro se plaintiff are to be given a liberal construction, … a pro se plaintiff is nevertheless bound to comply with the rules governing the filing of a complaint. Moreover, the court drew plaintiff's attention to this rule in its order denying his motions to proceed in forma pauperis and for appointment of counsel, and yet plaintiff simply refiled his complaint, sans exhibits and extraneous documents. It is not the duty of the court or the defendants to sift through a massive filing in an attempt to discern a "short and plain statement of the claim." For this reason, courts routinely dismiss complaints on the ground that they are unintelligible.

See also McAninch v. Wintermute, 478 F.3d 882 (8th Cir. 2007) (affirming on other grounds a district court's denial of a motion to amend the complaint on Rule 8(a) grounds as well as futility.)

The Wilkinson Court also issued an order to "show cause why the court should not impose sanctions upon [plaintiff] for violating Rule 11(b) by filing a lawsuit that has no basis in law or fact for purposes of harassment or delay."

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