On March 8, 2023, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a district court’s dismissal of a former Georgia police officer’s sexual harassment lawsuit because the complaint was drafted as a “shotgun pleading.”
The Eleventh Circuit is well known for its disapproval of and readiness to toss out shotgun pleadings. A shotgun pleading is a complaint that typically involves several counts and incorporates every prior piece of information into each count, even if the information is irrelevant to that particular count. The order said that improperly incorporating all information into each subsequent count renders all but the first count in the complaint immaterial.
Roger Halstead, a former Dunwoody police officer from 2015-2019, filed suit against the city and mayor of Dunwoody, several city employees, the city’s chief of police, and several members of the police department in August 2020. Allegedly, a lieutenant within the department requested illicit photos from Halstead and repeatedly sexually harassed him. Halstead also alleges that he was fired from another police department after a few months because the lieutenant from Dunwoody was friends with an assistant chief at the new department.
In its ruling, the Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the first amended complaint with prejudice, after allowing Halstead an opportunity to amend the complaint to fix the deficiencies. Rather, Halstead’s first amended complaint made the same mistakes as the original, and a proposed second amended complaint did not resolve the issues. Halstead pointed to other cases in which a district court has allowed a plaintiff to amend his complaint multiple times, but the Eleventh Circuit held that this does not show that the district court in Halstead’s case abused its discretion.
The case is Roger Halstead v. Fidel Espinoza et al., case number 21-13356, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
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