Update (September 22, 2017): The signature style of U.S. District Court Judge Patrick J. Schiltz is the antithesis of the lawyer appearing before him as plaintiff’s counsel in Naca v. Macalester.
Judge Schiltz is often short and to the point. And he was this week in chastising Plaintiff’s counsel, Mr. Peter Nickitas. Judge Schiltz rejected Mr. Nickitas’ appeal of the Magistrate Judge’s order rejecting his motion to amend the complaint to add claims against Brian Rosenberg, Macalester’s President.
“In this case and in several other cases before the Court, Naca’s counsel has regularly violated the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the local rules of this District. The Court will no longer tolerate such violations.”
Judge Schiltz rejected Plaintiff Naca’s motion because Mr. Nickitas had serially defied court rules and also, even if he’d followed them, the proposed amendment lacked merit. The proposed claim against Pres. Rosenberg would not have survived a motion to dismiss.
The case reminds us of a 2011 post (under the headline, “It’s a messy job but someone has to do it”) in which we said
Many of us can boast of ties to class-mates on distinguished courts or with inspiring national practices (and a few of us have the skills and good fortune to attain those lofty heights), but, by and large, most of the nation’s lawyers are dealing with somewhat less glamorous disputes — the blood, guts, and other bodily fluids of real life.
Original post (October 4, 2016) (under the headline “Minnesota Lawyer, Peter “Extreme Caution” Nickitas, Strikes, and is Stricken, Again”): More than four years ago, now, I denounced a lawyer-rating site, RateStars, which no longer exists. When the site operated, it anointed Mr. Peter Nickitas the best lawyer in Minneapolis. Other sites suggest a slightly different appraisal of Mr. Nickitas: Avvo, for example, suggests that buyers of legal services exercise “extreme caution” with regard to hiring Mr. Nickitas. [Ed. note: I am no fan of Avvo either. Consumers of legal services must look with great skepticism at all lawyer marketing, on-line or otherwise, and, in particular, beware of marketers who make all of their money by acting as shills for lawyers.]
This past Friday, U.S. Judge Patrick J. Schiltz (D. Minn.) struck the 81-page complaint of former Macalester Professor Kristin Naca, a client of Mr. Nickitas, against Macalester College, filed just two days before. (Here is the order striking the complaint.)
You might think of a legal complaint as a literary genre, but it is not and it must not be like a novel, a poem, a play, or a libretto. As a genre, a complaint should be more like a Material Safety Data Sheet (“MSDS”) or a cooking recipe. That is, it is technical and specialized literary form with a narrow functional purpose. Complaints must be “short and plain” as Judge Schiltz notes Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires. Why?
The answer is simple. It takes courts and adversaries a long time to read a long complaint and to make legal sense out of it. A prolix, long-winded, verbose, argumentative, discursive, drawn out, lengthy, protracted, and seemingly interminable complaint adds expense to the resolution of legal disputes.
Moreover, a rambling complaint like Plaintiff Kristin Naca’s makes allegations against quite a few people and names many others who are not parties to the legal dispute, as well. This is an employment discrimination dispute. Focus. It is unfair to non-parties if they are cast as bit players or make cameo appearances in a legal dispute in which they are uninvolved or on the periphery, at best. (And this is why I am not linking to the 81-page stricken complaint, by the way.)
Whereas a few of you might want to read about a chef’s religious practices as part of his recipe for roasted chicken, white yams, red onions, when most of us search out a recipe, we just want to make something delicious and eat it.
And a rambling instructor is particularly unappreciated if you’re paying the cooking staff hundreds of dollars an hour or using tax payers’ money for courts to prepare the feast.