• July 6, 2011

With the occasional exception, it may be fair to say that the era of the sprawling and epic novel is over.  The great 19th-20th century Russian novelists — Tolstoy, Dostoievski, Turgenev — are not known for the brevity of their works and, in this day and age where our attention spans seem to be byte-sized, there can be little doubt that their readership numbers are down.  now we r twttr peeps roflmao.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Patrick J. Schiltz (D. Minn.) showed little patience for a relatively shorter Russian-inspired saga (more Kafka than Tolstoy, actually), that is, the 59-page complaint of six Russian emigres and a home care company against ten defendants (Metro Housing & Redevelopment Authority and related individuals, for the most part).

Judge Schiltz included some cutting and specific criticism of plaintiffs’ complaint in his order dismissing the complaint (but granting leave to file an amended complaint).  Interestingly, however, his criticism was not one-sided.  He also noted the possibility of significant problems with defendants’ conduct and clearly did not view plaintiffs’ claims as lacking any legally viable potential.

In short, while the new federal pleading regime of Iqbal/Twombly requires plaintiffs to elaborate sufficiently as to their legal claims, courts have neither the time nor the patience to function as manuscript editors.  Judge Schiltz puts plaintiffs (and their lawyers) on notice that they must balance the requirement that pleadings be “short and plain” with the requirement that they be sufficiently detailed. Plaintiffs face dismissal for being either “too conclusory” or “too prolix.”

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