Armstrong’s federal court application thrown out, may be allowed re-file with substantial modifications
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Monday, July 09, 2012

Armstrong’s federal court application thrown out, may be allowed re-file with substantial modifications

by Shane Stokes at 7:25 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
“This Court is not inclined to indulge Armstrong's desire for publicity, self-aggrandizement, or vilification of Defendants”

Lance ArmstrongHours after it was announced via multiple media outlets that Lance Armstrong and his legal team had filed a lengthy application to the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas in his home town of Austin, seeking to overturn the USADA charges against him on many listed grounds, the same court has thrown out the complaint.

In what is an embarrassing development for Armstrong’s legal team, United States District Judge Sam Sparks has found several faults with the application and said that the court will proceed no further on those grounds. He has given that legal team twenty days to file a revised complaint if it so wishes, but warns against not following strict guidelines.

However it is the language of the ruling which is the most notable, with the judge blasting Armstrong for what he states was an application containing irrelevant ‘allegations’ which were ‘included solely to increase media coverage of this case, and to incite public opinion against Defendants.’

The ruling highlights several areas of concern. The first is the structure of the complaints made, with the court referring to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which that a plaintiff's complaint should contain "short and plain" statements of both the basis of the court's jurisdiction, and the plaintiff's legal claim for relief. It adds that Rule 8(d)(1) states, "Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct."’

It then blasts what was submitted: “Ultimately, what Rule 8 demands is a short and plain statement of detailed facts, not a mechanical recital of boilerplate allegations, nor as is more relevant here a lengthy and bitter polemic against the named defendants.

“Armstrong's complaint is far from short, spanning eighty pages and containing 261 numbered paragraphs, many of which have multiple subparts. Worse, the bulk of these paragraphs contain "allegations" that are wholly irrelevant to Armstrong's claims and which, the Court must presume, were included solely to increase media coverage of this case, and to incite public opinion against Defendants.”

It continues by criticising Armstrong in relation to these areas. “This Court is not inclined to indulge Armstrong's desire for publicity, self-aggrandizement, or vilification of Defendants, by sifting through eighty mostly unnecessary pages in search of the few kernels of factual material relevant to his claims,” it states.

A note adds that sanctions could potentially apply if lawyers didn’t follow the rules, again knocking the former pro rider. “Contrary to Armstrong's apparent belief, pleadings filed in the United States District Courts are not press releases, internet blogs, or pieces of investigative journalism. All parties, and their lawyers, are expected to comply with the rules of this Court, and face potential sanctions if they do not.”

Judge Sparks states that because of these errors, that the complaint is dismissed without prejudice. He adds that the court may accept an amended complaint within twenty days, but only on a number of specified grounds. His communcation includes a warning that this must be followed carefully.

“Armstrong is advised, in the strongest possible terms, and on pain of Rule 11 sanctions, to omit any improper argument, rhetoric, or irrelevant material from his future pleadings.”

The court ruling will fuel the suggestion that Armstrong’s legal team has been playing the media in trying to drum up public support. Several leaks have been made recently, including USADA’s original charging letter, Armstrong’s lawyer Robert Luskin’s responses, and also a claim in De Telegraaf that Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma Quick Step), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team) and Garmin-Sharp riders Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie plus team manager Jonathan Vaughters had given evidence against those charged and struck a deal with USADA, whereby the riders would accept a six month suspension which would run through the winter months.

It has been speculated that one of those charged by USADA or their representatives may be the source of the latter leak to the Dutch newspaper, for whom Johan Bruyneel writes a regular column. A six month ban has been denied by Vaughters.

USADA stated earlier today that it considered the lawsuit to be ‘without merit, and said that it was confident that ‘the courts will continue to uphold the established rules, which provide full constitutional due process and are designed to protect the rights of clean athletes and the integrity of sport.’


Today’s ruling is as follows:



IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
AUSTIN DIVISION

LANCE ARMSTRONG,
Plaintiff,
Case No. A-12-CA-606-ss
-vs-

TRAVIS TYGART, in his official capacity as
Chief Executive Officer of the United States Anti-
Doping Agency, and UNITED STATES ANTIDOPING
AGENCY,

Defendants.


ORDER

BE IT REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the above-styled cause, and
specifically Plaintiff Lance Armstrong's Complaint [#1], his Motion for Temporary Restraining
Order [#2], and his memorandum [#3] and exhibits [#4] in support thereof. Having reviewed the
documents, the relevant law, and the file as a whole, the Court now enters the following opinion and orders DISMISSING Armstrong's complaint and motion WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a plaintiff's complaint contain "short and plain" statements of both the basis of the court's jurisdiction, and the plaintiff's legal claim for relief. Likewise, Rule 8(d)(1) states, "Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct." The Supreme Court has recently held that "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Rule 8 prescribes a middle ground of specificity, not requiring "detailed factual allegations," but demanding "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Thus, "a pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do," Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), nor will a complaint rife with argument and "other things that a pleader, aware of and faithful to the command of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, knows to be completely extraneous," Gordon v. Green, 602 F.2d 743, 745 (5th Cir. 1979). Ultimately, what Rule 8 demands is a short and plain statement of detailed facts, not a mechanical recital of boilerplate allegations, nor as is more relevant here a lengthy and bitter polemic against the named defendants.

Armstrong's complaint is far from short, spanning eighty pages and containing 261 numbered paragraphs, many of which have multiple subparts. Worse, the bulk of these paragraphs contain "allegations" that are wholly irrelevant to Armstrong's claims and which, the Court must presume, were included solely to increase media coverage of this case, and to incite public opinion against Defendants. See, e.g., Compl. [#1] ¶ 10 ("USADA's kangaroo court proceeding would violate due process even if USADA had jurisdiction to pursue its charges against Mr. Armstrong.").[see note 1 below] Indeed, vast swaths of the complaint could be removed entirely, and most of the remaining paragraphs substantially reduced, without the loss of any legally relevant information.
Nor are Armstrong's claims "plain": although his causes of action are, thankfully, clearly
enumerated, the excessive preceding rhetoric makes it difficult to relate them to any particular factual support. This Court is not inclined to indulge Armstrong's desire for publicity, self-aggrandizement, or vilification of Defendants, by sifting through eighty mostly unnecessary pages in search of the few kernels of factual material relevant to his claims.

Accordingly, Armstrong's complaint, and his accompanying motion, are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, for failure to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court grants leave to amend, provided Armstrong can limit his pleadings to: (1) the basis for this Court's jurisdiction; (2) the legal claims he is asserting; (3) against which Defendants each claim is being made; (4) the factual allegations supporting each claim; (5) a brief statement of why such facts give rise to the claim; (6) a statement of the relief sought; and (7) why his claims entitle him to such relief. 2 Armstrong is advised, in the strongest possible terms, and on pain of Rule 11 sanctions, to omit any improper argument, rhetoric, or irrelevant material from his future pleadings.

Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff Lance Armstrong's Complaint [#11, and his Motion for Temporary Restraining Order ]#2[, are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to refiling; IT IS FINALLY ORDERED that Armstrong shall file any amended complaint within TWENTY (20) DAYS of entry of this order, or this case shall be closed and dismissed for failure to prosecute, and for failure to comply with this Court's orders.

SIGNED this 9th day of July 2012.


SAM SPARKS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE


Note 1: Contrary to Armstrong's apparent belief, pleadings filed in the United States District Courts are not press releases, internet blogs, or pieces of investigative journalism. All parties, and their lawyers, are expected to comply with the rules of this Court, and face potential sanctions if they do not.

Note 2: Court expresses no opinion whether Armstrong actually has a legally cognizable claim against Defendants; it concludes only that his current pleadings are insufficient under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
 

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