United States District Court, S.D. New York
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
GREGORY H. WOODS, United States District Judge.
2013, Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz filed a
complaint with the University alleging that fellow student
Paul Nungesser had raped her. After an investigation, a
hearing panel convened by Columbia found that Nungesser was
“not responsible.” In this suit, Nungesser seeks
redress from Columbia for alleged violations of Title IX of
the Education Amendments of 1972 arising from events that
ensued―most notably, Sulkowicz's senior thesis
performance art project entitled “Mattress Project:
Carry That Weight, ” which attracted widespread media
attention. Nungesser also brings various state-law claims
against Columbia and the individual defendants. Defendants
have moved to strike certain portions of the Second Amended
and Supplemented Complaint (“SAC”). ECF No. 55.
For the reasons below, Defendants' motion to strike is
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), a court “may
strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any
redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous
matter.” Motions to strike are generally disfavored,
and “courts should not tamper with the pleadings unless
there is a strong reason for so doing.” E.g.,
City of New York v. Fedex Ground Package Sys., Inc.,
314 F.R.D. 348, 354 (S.D.N.Y. 2016) (quoting Lipsky v.
Commonwealth United Corp., 551 F.2d 887, 893 (2d Cir.
1976)); see also Allocco v. Dow Jones & Co., No.
02-cv-1029 (LMM), 2002 WL 1484400, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. July 10,
2002) (stating that motions to strike “will not be
granted unless it is clear that the allegations in question
can have no possible bearing on the subject matter of the
litigation” (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted)). To prevail on a motion to strike, “a party
must demonstrate that (1) no evidence in support of the
allegations would be admissible; (2) that the allegations
have no bearing on the issues in the case; and (3) that to
permit the allegations to stand would result in prejudice to
the movant.” Landesbank Baden-Württemberg v.
RBS Holdings USA Inc., 14 F.Supp.3d 488, 497 (S.D.N.Y.
2014) (citation omitted). “Federal courts have
discretion in deciding whether to grant motions to
strike.” Allocco, 2002 WL 1484400, at *1
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to
contain a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Rule
8(d) requires pleadings to be “simple, concise, and
direct.” In addition to the grounds stated expressly in
Rule 12(f), the Rule “is designed to reinforce the
requirement in Rule 8[(d)] that pleadings be simple, concise,
and direct.” In re Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.
Research Reports Sec. Litig., 218 F.R.D. 76, 78
(S.D.N.Y. 2003). “[U]nnecessary prolixity in a pleading
places an unjustified burden on the court and the party who
must respond to it because they are forced to select the
relevant material from a mass of verbiage.”
Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988)
(quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and
Procedure § 1281). “When a complaint does not
comply with the requirement that it be short and plain, the
court has the power . . . to strike any portions that are
redundant or immaterial . . . or to dismiss the
complaint.” Id.; see also Blakely v.
Wells, 209 F. App'x 18, 20 (2d Cir. 2006)
(“The district court acted within the bounds of
permissible discretion in dismissing the second amended
complaint for noncompliance with Rule 8(a). The pleading,
which spanned 57 pages and contained 597 numbered paragraphs,
was far from short or plain.”); Amsterdam v. Office
of Hawaiian Affairs, cv. No. 10-00525, 2011 WL 3585864,
at *5 (D. Haw. Aug. 16, 2011) (dismissing complaint for
failure to comply with Rule 8(d)).
addition to well-pleaded factual allegations, the prolix SAC,
in its 100 pages, 273 numbered paragraphs, and 157
footnotes, contains a great deal of extraneous matter.
This includes arguments, a gender-swapping hypothetical,
descriptions of social science articles, citations to case
law and agency guidance, rhetorical questions, Greek
chorus-style commentary, and even outright polemics. Indeed,
large portions of the SAC read more like a brief than a
pleading submitted in a counseled case. Nungesser, through
his counsel, has rendered the Court's task far more
difficult and time consuming than necessary by ignoring Rule
8(d)'s requirement that a complaint's allegations be
simple, concise, and direct and Rule 8(a)'s requirement
that the statement of his claims be “short and
plain.” Nevertheless, in light of the general disfavor
toward motions to strike, and because the Court does not
conclude that Defendants will be prejudiced by denial of the
motion, the Court declines to grant Defendants' motion.
the Court has declined to grant Defendants' motion does
not mean that the Court will consider all of the challenged
portions of the SAC in ruling on Defendants' motion to
dismiss. While a court must “accept all facts
alleged in the complaint as true, ” Burch v.
Pioneer Credit Recovery, Inc., 551 F.3d 122, 124 (2d
Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (emphasis added), that requirement
does not apply to matters that are not facts. That includes
legal conclusions, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679,
“hypothetical speculation, ” Solow v.
Citigroup, Inc., 827 F.Supp.2d 280, 289 (S.D.N.Y. 2011),
and arguments, Philips v. Pitt Cty. Memorial Hosp.,
572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009).
the Court does not conclude that the challenged portions of
the SAC would work prejudice on Defendants if not stricken,
Defendants' motion to strike is DENIED.
Clerk of Court is directed to terminate the motion ...