Leatherman v. Tarrant County
507 U.S. 163, 113 S. Ct. 1160, 122 L. Ed. 2d 517 (1993)
separate incidents the Tarrant County police executed search warrants
and forcibly entered Leatherman's home because they suspected the people inside had drugs. Leatherman sued the county government.
Leatherman claimed he was assaulted and that the police killed his dog.
Court dismissed the case. Leatherman appealed.
Court found that the complaint was written improperly and didn't meet the
heightened pleading standard that
was required for claims of municipal liability (see 42 USC § 1983).
of a large number of mainly frivolous civil rights cases being filed by
prisoners, courts in that era tended to ask for more details in
complaints in order to reduce the case load.
argued that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FCRP) only require
a short, and plain statement of the claim showing that the plaintiff is
entitled to relief under that claim.
Court affirmed. Leatherman apealed.
Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for trial.
The US Supreme
Court found that FederalRule
8(a)(2) requires that a complaint
include only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.
Keep in mind that the
complaint still must state factual details and the basis for the claim.
It also must
also include a reason for why the defendant cannot successfully maintain the defense
FederalRule 9(b) does say that there is a particularity requirement in
two specific instances.
all averments of fraud or mistake, the circumstances constituting fraud
or mistake shall be stated with particularity."
FRCP addresses the question of the need for greater particularity in
pleading certain actions, but does not include any reference to
complaints alleging municipal liability under 42 USC § 1983.
Court found that if you wanted to change a Federal Rule, you
have to do it via rewriting the FCRP, you can't do it via case law.