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Norman v. Central Trust Bank Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

November 7, 2019

GARY W. NORMAN, Plaintiff,
THE CENTRAL TRUST BANK INC., et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Gary W. Norman, acting pro se, initiated this action by filing a Complaint on August 16, 2019. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff names more than twenty-six defendants. Before the Court is Defendant Equifax Inc.'s (“Equifax”) motion to strike (Doc. 36) Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1) and RICO Case Statement (Doc. 2). Defendant Equifax's motion to strike is joined by Defendants Experian Information Solutions, Inc. (“Experian”) (Doc. 40) and Trans Union, LLC (“Trans Union”) (Doc. 64) (Docs. 36, 40, and 64 are collectively referred to as “CRA Defendants' motion to strike”).[1] CRA Defendants' motion to strike is ripe and ready for disposition. (Docs. 52, 54.) CRA Defendants' motion is GRANTED. For the reasons in the CRA Defendants' motion to strike and for the additional reasons identified below, the Court will PROVISIONALLY DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint, but allow Plaintiff the opportunity to file an amended complaint that (1) cures the deficiencies identified in this Order and (2) reasonably complies with the pleading requirements in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[2] Failure to comply with this Order and plead in accordance with the pleading requirements will result in the Court dismissing the case with prejudice.

         Additionally, the Court takes up five motions filed by Plaintiff (Docs. 44, 46, 47, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 75, 76, and 77) and DENIES the motions as frivolous.

         I. CRA Defendant's motion to strike

         CRA Defendants ask the Court to strike Plaintiff's Complaint for violating the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 7 and 8 as well as for containing redundant, impertinent, and scandalous material in violation of Rule 12(f). CRA Defendants ask that the Court order Plaintiff to file a single complaint that conforms with the “short and plain statement” requirements of Rule 8.

         The Court begins with the well-established principle that a pro se pleading is afforded liberal construction, which provides the Court discretion to excuse a pro se litigant's failure to comply with technical pleading requirements. See Hudson v. McHugh, 148 F.3d 859, 864 (7th Cir. 1998) (articulating liberal pleading requirements for pro se litigants). However, liberal pleading rules is not a vehicle for abusing the judicial process. “The liberal construction . . . is limited by reasonableness: defendants must be given fair notice of the claims so that they may make a meaningful response to the pleadings.” Nelson v. Farm Credit Servs., No. 93-2622, 1994 U.S. App. LEXIS 4807, at *2-3 (8th Cir. Mar. 18, 1994). The Court agrees with CRA Defendants that Plaintiff's Complaint is deficient on numerous grounds, including Rule 7, Rule 8, Rule 12(f) as well as Rule 11. The identified technical defects are significant such that Plaintiff's Complaint prevents fair notice of the claims.

         Also concerning to the Court, Plaintiff has filed several frivolous motions, (see infra Section II), and Plaintiff includes improper personal attacks in his Complaint and responses to CRA Defendants' motion to strike, (see infra, Section I.E-F). See Bethel v. Baldwin Cty. Bd. of Educ., No. 09-10-KD-C, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39202, at *3 (S.D. Ala. May 6, 2009) (the pro se practice shield against the technical pleading requirements is not a sword with which to engage in personal attacks). These frivolous filings and improper attacks, when considered in combination with Plaintiff's gross violations of the pleading requirements, tend to show Plaintiff's action is not filed in good faith, but rather for harassment and vexation, which is a misuse of the judicial process. Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 43 (1991) (courts have implied power to impose respect and decorum to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases). As additional context, in less than three months, this case has a docket sheet that is nineteen pages in length, which includes ninety docket entries and twenty-four pending motions. At this juncture, the Court finds provisional dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint is warranted with Plaintiff having the opportunity to file an amended complaint that (1) cures the deficiencies identified in this Order and (2) reasonably complies with the pleading requirements in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         A. The length of Plaintiff's Complaint violates Rule 7(a) and Rule 8(a)

         To begin, Plaintiff's Complaint is unintelligible, in part because of its length. Plaintiff's Complaint is 300 pages, including 938 paragraphs, 62 counts, and names twenty-six entity defendants including twenty-two financial institutions, a law firm, and three credit reporting agencies. In addition to the twenty-six entity defendants named in the Complaint, Plaintiff also names “all shareholders, directors, additional directors, officers, chairman of the board, owners and all spouses, all secured parties, and all spouses” of the financial institutions; “all spouses” of the law firm; and “owners, officers, & employees and spouses” of the credit reporting agencies. (Doc. 1 at 1-2.) On the same day the Complaint was filed, Plaintiff filed a second document titled “Plaintiff's RICO Case Statement Normans Verfied [sic] Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Permanent Injunctive Relief and Monetary Damages” (or “RICO Case Statement”). (Doc. 2.) Plaintiff's RICO Case Statement is 297 pages, and appears to name the same defendants and list the same 62 counts as provided in the Complaint. Plaintiff also attaches 29 exhibits to his RICO Case Statement.

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff makes several references to his RICO Case Statement and the accompanying exhibits (E.g., Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 34, 50, 60, 117, 168, and 172) and appears to be incorporating these documents into his Complaint. By treating both his Complaint and RICO Case Statement as his 597-page pleading, Plaintiff grossly violates Rule 8(a)'s requirement that a pleading contain a short and plain statement of relief and further violates Rule 7(a)'s requirement that there may only be one complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 7(a) (addressing what pleadings are allowed in federal court); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) (addressing general rules of pleading); see United States ex rel. Garst v. Lockheed-Martin Corp., 328 F.3d 374, 378 (7th Cir. 2003) (“length may make a complaint unintelligible, by scattering and concealing in a morass of irrelevancies the few allegations that matter.”) (addressing a 155-page complaint, including 400 paragraphs and 99 attachments); See Olson v. Little, No. 92-2123, 1992 U.S. App. LEXIS 27787 (8th Cir. Oct. 27, 1992) (a district court may sua sponte dismiss a complaint that fails to comply with Rule 8).

         B. Plaintiff's Complaint lacks basic coherence in violation of Rule 8(a) and Rule 8(d)

         Regardless of the length, Plaintiff's Complaint is unintelligible because it lacks basic coherence. The crux of Plaintiff's Complaint appears to be that Plaintiff applied to open a new account with “Central Trust Bank” on September 19, 2015. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 23.) Plaintiff asserts that the bank's legal name is in all caps, THE CENTRAL TRUST BANK, and it is therefore fraudulent for the bank to use the name “Central Trust Bank, ” “CENTRAL TRUST BANK, ” or “The Central Trust Bank.” (E.g., Doc. 1 at ¶ 37.) Outside of this event, Plaintiff's Complaint is so confused, ambiguous, vague, repetitive, conclusory in articulation of the factual and legal basis for the claims, and scattered with irrelevancies, that the Court is unable to distinguish the allegations that matter (i.e., the facts that constitute the wrongful conduct). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) (a claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief must be both short and plain) (emphasis added); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d) (“Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.”); Stanard v. Nygren, 658 F.3d 792, 798 (7th Cir. 2011) (“[W]here the lack of organization and basic coherence renders a complaint too confusing to determine the facts that constitute the alleged wrongful conduct, dismissal is an appropriate remedy.”); Simmons v. Abruzzo, 49 F.3d 83, 86 (2d Cir. 1995) (dismissal appropriate if the “complaint is so confused, ambiguous, vague, or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised”); Mangan v. Weinberger, 848 F.2d 909, 911 (8th Cir. 1988) (complaints which were unreasonably verbose, confusing, and conclusory wholly failed to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8).

         C. Plaintiff's Complaint is insufficient in that Plaintiff fails to allege how the majority of defendants' actions furthered the alleged wrongful conduct

         Of the twenty-six entity defendants named in the Complaint's caption, Plaintiff makes factual allegations against only five: The Central Trust Bank Inc. (“TCTB”), Central Bancompany Inc., Central Bancompany Merger Corporation Inc., Boone County National Bank, Central Bank of the Ozarks. Plaintiff lists three defendants-First National Bank of St. Louis, City Bank, and Central Bank of Audrian County-in the case caption, but makes no further mention of them anywhere in the Complaint. Plaintiff lists the following fifteen defendants in the case caption and in his listing of “predicate actors” (Doc. 1 at ¶ 21), but makes no further mention of them anywhere in the Complaint: City Bank and Trust Company, First National Bank of Audrian County, Empire Bank, First Central Bank, Metcalf Bank, Jefferson Bank of Missouri, ONB Bank & Trust Company, Ozark Mountain Bank, Third National Bank, Central Trust & Investment Holding Company, Investor Services Insurance, Inc., Central Trust & Investment Company, Dogwood Insurance Agency, L.L.C., and Central Mortgage Company. By failing to mention certain defendants outside of the caption and failing to make factual allegation against the majority of the named defendants, Plaintiff fails to allege how the majority of the defendants' actions furthered the alleged wrongful conduct. See McFarland v. McFarland, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70687, * 4-9 (N.D. Ia. Aug. 10, 2009) (finding a complaint insufficient in part because it made no mention of certain named defendants outside of the caption and failed to allege how the individual defendants' actions further the alleged wrongful conduct). Should Plaintiff fail to include facts pertinent to any named defendant in an amended complaint, those defendants will be summarily dismissed.

         D. Plaintiff's “kitchen-sink” complaint violates Rule 8 and Rule 11

         “By presenting to the court a pleading, . . . [a] party certifies that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and believe, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances: (1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation; (2) the claims . . . are warranted by existing law[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b). Under both Rule 8 and Rule 11, “[i]t is the plaintiffs' burden . . . to reasonably investigate their claims, to research the relevant law, to plead only viable claims, and to plead those claims concisely and clearly, so that a defendant can readily respond to them and a court can readily resolve them.” Gurman v. Metro Hous. & Redev. Auth., 842 F.Supp.2d 1151, 1153 (D. Minn. 2011). Here, Plaintiff has filed a “kitchen-sink” or “shotgun” complaint which unfairly burdens both the defendants and the Court to pick through the unintelligible and indecipherable pleadings to determine what, if any, viable claims Plaintiff has pleaded against which defendants. See Larson v. Jesson, No. 11-2247 (PAM/LIB), 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137132, at *6 (D. Minn. Aug. 24, 2017) (criticizing kitchen-sink or shotgun complaints for shifting the burden onto defendants and the courts to pick through the mess and determine if plaintiff has pleaded a viable claim).

         E. Plaintiff's complaint contains allegations which are redundant, impertinent, and scandalous

         Turning to the allegations themselves, the Complaint is replete with redundant, impertinent, and scandalous matters in violation of Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under Rule 12(f), the Court may strike from a pleading any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter. The function of a motion to strike under Rule 12(f) “is to ‘avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with' them early in the case.” Operating Engineers Local 324 Health Care Plan v. G & W Const. Co., 783 F.3d 1045, 1050 (6th Cir. 2015). “Judges enjoy liberal discretion to strike pleadings under Rule 12(f).” BJC Health Sys. v. Columbia Cas. Co., 478 F.3d 908, 917 (8th Cir. 2007). “Striking a party's pleading, however, is an extreme and disfavored measure[.]” Id. Here, many of Plaintiff's allegations appear entirely irrelevant to the controversy, include personal attacks, and confuse the issues in this case. For example, Plaintiff writes that:

That's actual (face to face threats) carried out on fake Missouri Associate Court settings, with no plaintiff, no real party in interest, no damaged party, and no subject matter jurisdiction for possibly fifty years from Cooper County to St. Louis County, back to Cole County to Greene County, and everywhere in between.
(Doc. 1 at ¶ 50.)
The buck stops right there as one attorney thinks this is absolutely hilarious, that attorney is Defendant Heidi DoerhoffVollet (sic) of (group 6) responsible with her father for the (3000 plus false claims) in the first place, mostly filed by COOK, VETTER, DOREHOFF (sic), and LANDWEHR P.C., and others right in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, selling out Plaintiff and all of St. Louis, Missouri, now it's(children) (sic) cold hearted lawyers.
(Id. at ¶ 170) (emphasis in original)
[The “alleged perceived Missouri government” is] an imposter parallel Missouri government scheme, everyone is running a massive criminal double life in a parallel concealment scheme, walking down the streetsof (sic) Jefferson City, Missouri shaking everybody's hand looking people straight in the eyes, and saying everything is just fine, with “forked tongue”.
(Id. at ¶ 234)
Stated before Plaintiff states again (they are not who they claim to be), they are all “interstate extortion imposters, ” possible over fifty Missouri County Associate Courts as [Extortion Enterprises], cloaked under the guise, and disguise as ...

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