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Hastings v. Department of Justice

September 30, 2002

JAMES R. HASTINGS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



Document Nos. 7, 10

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO STRIKE THE PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT

I. INTRODUCTION

This civil rights matter comes before the court on a motion to strike the plaintiff's complaint. The pro se plaintiff, who is an attorney advisor at the United States Department of Justice ("Department"), filed a complaint alleging employment discrimination in contravention of federal law and the United States Constitution. The Department and various unspecified Department officials (collectively, "the defendants") now move to strike the complaint for failure to contain a short and plain statement of the claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. For the reasons that follow, the court denies the defendants' motion.

II. BACKGROUND

The pro se plaintiff has worked at the Department for more than 20 years. Compl. at 3. The gravamen of his complaint is that the defendants discriminated against him on the basis of his age and religion in violation of federal law and the United States Constitution. Id. at 35-37. The plaintiff alleges that this discrimination began in 1988, when the Department's Criminal Division transferred certain older attorneys, including the plaintiff, to the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS"), ostensibly as a result of budget constraints. Id. at 3.

Concerned that the transfer was motivated by age discrimination, Mr. Hastings filed an equal employment opportunity ("EEO") complaint with the Department's EEO office in March 1989. Id. at 5. At about the same time, the defendants permitted the transferred attorneys, with the exception of the plaintiff, to return to the Criminal Division. Id. at 6-7. Two months later, the defendants permitted the plaintiff to return to the Criminal Division, but assigned him to a new position within an unfamiliar unit. Id. at 8. Believing that the defendants were subjecting him to reprisal as a result of his March EEO complaint, the plaintiff filed two additional EEO complaints. Id. at 13. The plaintiff avers that the situation deteriorated dramatically over the next several years, with the plaintiff receiving further transfers, degrading work assignments, inequitable treatment, threatening comments from supervisors, and repeated denials of leave. Id. at 12-33.

As his work environment worsened, the plaintiff continued to file EEO complaints, registering another 12 complaints, all alleging reprisal or discrimination, *fn1 between 1989 and 1991. Id. at 4, 13-17. The plaintiff reports that in August 1992, the Department's EEO officer informed him of his right to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or in federal district court. Id. at 18. According to the plaintiff, after he notified the Department of his intent to file suit, the hostility in the work environment intensified. Id. at 18, 21-32. The plaintiff believes that the discrimination continued through 1998. E.g., id. at 15.

On March 29, 2001, the plaintiff filed a complaint demanding a jury trial and asserting the following five causes of action against the defendants: (1) violations of the defendants' duty to protect the plaintiff's free speech rights under the First Amendment; (2) violations of the defendants' duty to protect the plaintiff's religious freedom rights under the First Amendment; (3) violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.; (4) violations of the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq.; and (5) violations of the defendants' duty to provide the plaintiff with an effective system to prevent reprisal and harassment as a result of exercising his right to file an EEO complaint. Id. at 35-37. The defendants filed the instant motion to strike the complaint for failure to state a short and plain statement of the claim. Defs.' Mot. to Strike ("Defs.' Mot."). For the reasons that follow, the court denies the motion.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 sets forth the general rules of pleading. FED. R. CIV. P. 8. Under Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short, plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a). In addition, Rule 8(e) requires that "each averment of a pleading . . . be simple, concise, and direct." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(e).

The purpose of pleading is to give an adverse party fair notice of the claim so as to permit the party the opportunity to "file a responsive answer, prepare an adequate defense and determine whether the doctrine of res judicata is applicable." Prows v. Dep't of Justice, 1991 WL 111459, at *1 (D.D.C. Jun 13, 1991) (citing Brown v. Califano, 75 F.R.D. 497, 498 (D.D.C. 1977)). The court or opposing party must be able "to understand whether a valid ...


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