Civil Procedure

Judge Quickly Tosses Lance Armstrong's Suit, Says Complaints Aren't Press Releases


Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong in 2006.
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A federal judge who once invited squabbling lawyers to a “kindergarten party” is back in the news for his quick dismissal a lawsuit filed by Lance Armstrong.

Hours after Armstrong filed an 80-page suit against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin dismissed it. Sparks said the suit seeking to block the group’s pursuit of doping charges contained “allegations” (Sparks included the quotation marks) that were “wholly irrelevant to Armstrong’s claims.” Indeed, Sparks wrote, “vast swaths” of the complaint could be eliminated without any loss of legally relevant information.

“Contrary to Armstrong’s apparent belief,” Sparks wrote in a footnote, “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.” The dismissal was without prejudice.

Sparks’ order (PDF posted by the New York Times) cited Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requiring a “short and plain” statement of facts. The rule does not call for a “bitter polemic against the named defendants,” Sparks said.

“This court is not inclined to indulge Armstrong’s desire for publicity, self-aggrandizement, or vilification of defendants, by sifting through 80 mostly unnecessary pages in search of the few kernels of factual material relevant to his claims,” Sparks said. He gave Armstrong 20 days to file an amended complaint.

Armstrong’s suit had claimed the anti-doping agency was trying to justify its existence by pursuing a “big fish.” Among the publications with stories are the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal.

Armstrong’s Austin-based lawyer, Tim Herman, told the Washington Post the suit would be refiled no later than Wednesday. “We will refile in a format that conforms to what Judge Sparks wants,” Herman said. “Obviously, I would have preferred not to have the order—I’d be lying if I said otherwise—but Judge Sparks is very straightforward, to say the least. When he speaks, I listen.”

Armstrong is represented by three law firms, according to the Post. They are Patton Boggs; Williams & Connolly; and Howry, Breen and Herman.

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