U.S. Eleventh Circuit - The FindLaw 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Shotgun Pleading May Cost Alabama Lawyer Double

One Alabama lawyer is learning a harsh lesson courtesy of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and his attempt to fight a foreclosure on behalf of his clients.

In addition to having his appeal thrown out and his ability to draft a complaint trashed in a published federal appellate opinion, he was ordered to show cause as to why he shouldn't pay double his opponent's fees, costs and expenses. However, before you start to break out the tiny violins, it might not be the worst idea to take a look at what the appellate court had to say in Jackson v. Bank of America.

Neither Short, Nor Plain

The facts of the case aren't overly complex. Attorney Kenneth Lay's clients, the Jacksons (no, not those Jacksons, and no, not that Kenneth Lay), filed suit after a foreclosure where the homeowners claim the bank just stopped accepting payment. And while this seems simple, Lay's complaint was not apparently. The appellate court explained:

At twenty-eight pages long and having incorporated all 123 paragraphs of allegations into all sixteen counts, it is neither "short" nor "plain."

The court then went on to describe how the complaint, and amended complaint, were incomprehensible and impermissible "shotgun pleadings":

This Court has filled many pages of the Federal Reporter condemning shotgun pleadings and explaining their vices: Shotgun pleadings, whether filed by plaintiffs or defendants, exact an intolerable toll on the trial court's docket, lead to unnecessary and unchanneled discovery, and impose unwarranted expense on the litigants, the court and the court's para judicial personnel and resources. Moreover, justice is delayed for the litigants who are "standing in line," waiting for their cases to be heard. The courts of appeals and the litigants appearing before them suffer as well.

It then concluded:

Tolerating such behavior constitutes toleration of obstruction of justice.

Unfortunately for Lay, he now must write a letter to the clerk of the court explaining why he shouldn't have to pay double for wasting judicial resources and effectively obstructing justice. Though, he could seek an en banc rehearing and/or seek cert.

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