United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
Hannah Lauck United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on two motions: (1) the Henrico
County School Board (the "School Board") and
Superintendent Amy Cashwell's ("Dr. Cashwell')
Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rules 8(a) and
10(b) (the "Rules 8 and 10 Motion to
Dismiss"), (ECF No. 8); and, (2) Dr. Cashwell's
Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (the
"Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss"), (ECF No. 6). In
the Rules 8 and 10 Motion to Dismiss, the School Board and
Dr. Cashwell assert two grounds for relief: (1) that
"[t]he [C]omplaint is so vague about time periods and
events and so burdened by excessive and irrelevant
information that the defendants cannot properly identify the
relevant claims and file a proper responsive pleading;"
and, (2) that "[t]he [C]omplaint does not state
'each claim founded on a separate transaction or
occurrence... in a separate count.'" (Rules 8 and 10
Mot. Dismiss 1, ECF No. 8.) In the Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to
Dismiss, Dr. Cashwell asserts that the Complaint does not
allege any wrongdoing on her part, that the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") does not create
individual employee liability, and that the Court should
dismiss her because "the action is essentially an action
against the School Board." (Mem. Supp. Rule 12(b)(6)
Mot. Dismiss 2-3, ECF No. 7.) Plaintiffs Christian Mueller
and Melanie Mueller (collectively, the "Muellers")
responded and, in a single filing, opposed both the Rules 8
and 10 Motion to Dismiss and the Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to
Dismiss. (ECF No. 10.) The School Board and Dr. Cashwell
replied in a single filing. (ECF No. 12.)
matter is ripe for disposition. The Court dispenses with oral
argument because the materials before it adequately present
the facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid
the decisional process. The Court exercises jurisdiction over
Plaintiffs' federal claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1331. For the reasons that follow, the Court
will grant the Rules 8 and 10 Motion to Dismiss and deny as
moot the Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss.
Review of the Muellers' Complaint
Court has reviewed the Complaint filed by the Muellers, which
numbers almost 40 pages and includes over 130 individual
paragraphs. The Muellers bring their Complaint against the
School Board and the superintendent of Henrico County Public
Schools, Dr. Amy Cashwell, requesting that the Court review a
school hearing officer's determination under the IDEA, 20
U.S.C. § 1415. The Muellers request that the Court
review the administrative record they have provided, reverse
and vacate the hearing officer's September 12, 2018
decision to the extent that it adversely affected them, find
that the School Board erred in denying Christian Mueller
services, and award Melanie Mueller "all costs,
expenses, advocates' fees, and  other relief as
appropriate. (Compl. 1, ECF No. 1; id. ¶¶
their Complaint, Christian and Melanie Mueller allege a
number of problems with the hearing officer's September
12, 2018 decision. In support of their claims, the Muellers
provide a difficult-to-follow narrative describing the School
Board's treatment of Christian Mueller's needs and
its treatment of Melanie Mueller as Christian's parent.
Reading this narrative liberally,  the Muellers appear to aver
that the impetus for the September 12, 2018 hearing stemmed
from Christian Mueller's allegedly premature removal from
the school's Individual Student Alternative Education
Plan ("ISAEP") program, which prevented him from
receiving further services from Glen Allen High School. The
motions at bar followed.
Muellers' Complaint Fails to Meet the
Pleading Requirements Articulated
in Rules 8(a) and 10(b)
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires a short and plain
statement of the grounds for this Court's jurisdiction
and a statement of the claims showing that the plaintiff is
entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Rule 8(d) requires
"[e]ach allegation [to]... be simple, and direct."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d). The Rules require such pleading "to
'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Ail.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting
Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).
"Even pro se plaintiffs must recognize Rule
8's vision for 'a system of simplified
pleadings that give notice of the general claim
asserted, allow for the preparation of a basic defense,
narrow the issue to be litigated, and provide a
means for quick dispositions of sham claims.'"
Id. (quoting Prezzi v. Berzak, 57 F.R.D.
149, 151 (S.D.N.Y. 1972)). Unnecessarily verbose statements
"place an unjustified burden on the court and the party
who must respond to [them] because they are forced to select
the relevant material from a mass of verbiage."
Sewraz v. Morchower, No. 3:08cv100, 2009 WL 211578,
at *1 (E.D. Va. Jan. 28, 2009) (quoting Salahuddin v.
Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988)) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
the Muellers list the ways in which they believe the
"Hearing Officer" erred in making the September 12,
2018 decision and specify the relief they seek, their
statement of the facts, the "narrative" of the
case, offends Rule 8(a). The Muellers' statement of facts
fails to coherently convey the facts, on which the Muellers
rely, in a way that enables the School Board and Dr. Cashwell
to understand the Muellers' grievances and to frame a
responsive pleading. The 38-page, 133-paragraph Complaint
contains statements pertaining to events over the course of
several years,  discusses multiple individuals without
describing their positions or their significance in this
case,  and suffers from a lack of sufficient
background information or context to explain how the various
allegations fit into the overall narrative. Rather than
providing clarity, the legal citations interspersed
throughout the Muellers' Complaint muddy their
allegations further. See Davis v. Infinity Ins. Co.,
No. 2:15cv01111, 2017 WL 4224588, at * 3 (N.D. Ala. Sept. 22,
2017) (finding that the plaintiffs' Second Amended
Complaint violated the federal pleading rules and stating
that "her inclusion of legal arguments/conclusions
muddies her allegations and claims beyond what is
problems force the Court and the Defendants to guess as to
the relevance of many of the statements contained in the
Muellers' narrative, and it makes the task of piecing
together what has happened in this case impracticable. The
Complaint "fails to articulate claims with sufficient
clarity to allow [the School Board and Dr. Cashwell] to frame
a responsive pleading." SunTrust Mortg., Inc. v.
First Residential Mortg. Servs. Corp., No. 3:12cv162,
2012 WL 7062086, at *7 (E.D. Va. Sept. 11, 2012), report
and recommendation adopted, 2013 WL 505828 (E.D. Va.
Feb. 8, 2013) (citations omitted). Consequently, it fails to
meet the pleading standard required by Rule 8(a),
the Court will dismiss the Complaint.
Muellers* Complaint Also Likely Fails to Meet the Pleading
Requirements of Rule 12(b)(6) as to Dr.
the Court has dismissed the Muellers' Complaint against
both the School Board and Dr. Cashwell pursuant to Rule 8,
the Court will deny as moot the Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to
Dismiss. However, even if the Court considered the Rule