It appears that the only thing more intimidating than Lance Armstrong flying up the L'Alpe D'Huez is the procedural knowledge and acid wit of Judge Sam Sparks.
Yesterday morning, Lance Armstrong's attorneys filed a lengthy complaint in federal district court in Austin, Texas complaining of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and Travis Tygart, the CEO of USADA. The complaint cited violations of Armstrong's Fifth Amendment Due Process rights, common law due process, and tortious interference with contract.
By 2:45 p.m., in what must surely be a judicial landspeed record, Judge Sam Sparks dismissed the complaint and the accompanying motion for a temporary restraining order. No argument. No briefing schedule. Just sua sponte. From the bench.
What happened? Find out below the jump. Judge Sparks' order relied on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, specifically subparts 8(a) and 8(d)(1).
Rule 8(a) states:
“(a) Claim for Relief. A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain:
(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support;
(2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and
(3) a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.”
Rule 8(d)(1) states:
“(d) Pleading to Be Concise and Direct; Alternative Statements; Inconsistency.
(1) In General. Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct. No technical form is required.”
What does all that mean?
Armstrong's joint complaint and motion were simply too long, is what it means.
Indeed, his complaint– which alleged a mere four counts – contained 82 pages and 261 individual numbered paragraphs – not including subparts. The motion for a temporary restraining order was 16 pages long, and its attached memorandum of fact and law weighed in at 55 pages. (Exhibits not included).
Armstrong's complaint contains ostensibly helpful information (e.g.: “Mr. Armstrong has passed every drug test ever administered to him in his career-a total of 500 to 600 tests.”) and some less so (e.g.: anything relying on Floyd Landis).
Sparks' problem with Armstrong's filings yesterday are best told by Sparks:
“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.”
“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.”
A footnote to the order likely speaks the real motivation behind today's swift dismissal:
“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.”
Numerous outlets are reporting that Armstrong's attorneys intend to file a compliant complaint today.