North Carolina Business Litigation Report

The Fourth Circuit Slams The Door On Animal House (And Overly Long Briefs Too)

The Fourth Circuit this week considered the antics of the Sigma Chi fraternity at George Mason University, and it didn't like what it saw.  In Iota Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity v. Patterson, the Court affirmed the District Court's dismissal of the fraternity's lawsuit asserting that its ten year ban from campus had violated its procedural due process and free speech rights.

This post isn't about the vile and obnoxious conduct of the brothers of Sigma Chi, or why it hadn't suffered an injury to its reputation by the University saying in its student newspaper that the fraternity had "faciliated sexual assaults." or even why the frat had no standing to pursue its free speech claim.

Instead, I'm writing about the opinion because of how the Fourth Circuit handled the issue of the fraternity's motion to strike the Defendants' summary judgment brief in the District Court because it was two pages too long. The University's brief rambled for 32 pages instead of the 30 allowed by Local Rule.

The District Court had refused to strike the brief.  Instead, it struck only the last two pages.  The fraternity argued that the District Court had no authority to do anything other than strike the entire brief, because the applicable Local Rule said that briefs shall not exceed 30 pages.  It also argued that the trial court couldn't strike the last two pages because then there would be no signature page on the brief and it then wouldn't be in compliance with Rule 11.

The Fourth Circuit ruled that the District Court had "acted well within its discretion," and that it "is for courts, not litigants, to decide what rules are desirable and how rigorously to enforce them." Striking the last two pages therefore was an appropriate sanction.

I think a better sanction would be striking the first two pages.  That's where I put all the good stuff.

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Mack Sperling
Brooks Pierce, LLP
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