Fired Macalester College professor Kristin Naca may have garnered praise for her 2009 poetry collection, Bird Eating Bird, but U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz is no fan of the “purple prose and personal invective” in the poet’s lawsuit against her former employer.
“Complaints are not briefs; they are not press releases; they are not vehicles for venting personal outrage or bludgeoning an opponent into submission,” Schiltz fumed in a Sept. 30 order.
However, it was the sheer length of Naca’s complaint that most irked Schiltz, who ordered the pleading stricken for violating a federal rule of civil procedure that requires “a short and plain statement of the claim.”
“Naca’s complaint – which weighs in at a remarkable (in a bad way) 81-pages and 250 numbered paragraphs and culminates in 26 claims for relief – does not come close to complying with Rule 8,” Schiltz writes. “The complaint sets forth in numbing detail just about every slight that Naca alleges she suffered during her tenure at Macalester. And the allegations in the complaint are not ‘simple, concise and direct;’ instead, they are rife with purple prose and personal invective.”
Schiltz’s order requires that Naca file an amended complaint of no more than 10,000 words by Oct. 28.
In the now-stricken complaint, Naca, an assistant professor of poetry at Macalester for six years prior to her sacking in 2015, accuses the notoriously P.C.-college of fostering “an objectively hostile work environment towards people of color, homosexuals, the disabled, and religious minorities.”
As a self-described Santeria priest of Filipina and Puerto Rican heritage who is both gay and disabled by “systemic Valley Fever,” Naca claims she wound up targeted for discrimination.
According to the suit, Macalester honchos used Naca’s “brief, consensual relationship” with a former student as a bogus pretext to justify her firing. She is seeking $2.4 million for the loss of the tenure track position, along with punitive and compensatory damages for emotional distress.
Despite the robust bench slap, Naca and her lawyer, Minneapolis attorney Peter Nickitas, can take some solace in knowing that they are not the first litigants to be scolded by Schiltz for a prolix filing.
Back in 2011, Schiltz announced in a similar order that he would “no longer tolerate the filing of kitchen sink complaints.”
In that case (an otherwise mundane dispute over housing vouchers, Gurman v. Metro Hous. & Redev. Auth.), the judge memorably likened the pleadings to a “coughed up…unsightly hairball of factual and legal allegations” and, as with the Naca suit, ordered the complaint stricken.