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Phifer v. City of Charlotte

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

September 17, 2019

AARON PHIFER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHARLOTTE, Defendant.

          ORDER

          David C. Keesler, United States Magistrate Judge.

         THIS MATTER IS BEFORE THE COURT on “Defendant’s Motion to Strike Portions Of Plaintiff’s Complaint” (Document No. 4). This motion has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Having carefully considered the motion, the record, and applicable authority, the undersigned will grant the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Aaron Phifer (“Plaintiff” or “Phifer”) initiated this action with the filing of a “Complaint” (Document No. 1-1) in the Superior Court of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina on December 17, 2018. Plaintiff asserts claims against the City Of Charlotte (“Defendant” or “Charlotte”) based on alleged race and color discrimination and retaliation related to the Charlotte Fire Department’s (“CFD”) failure to hire Plaintiff as a firefighter. (Document No. 1-1). The Complaint notes that Plaintiff’s father is a 28 year veteran of the CFD and that his mother is a 26 year veteran of the CFD, but alleges that Plaintiff was not hired by the CFD based on his race and because his mother spoke out for diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity for Black/African American firefighters. (Document No. 1-1, p. 1). Defendant filed its “Notice Of Removal” (Document No. 1) based on federal question jurisdiction with this Court on January 18, 2019.

         The pending “Defendant’s Motion to Strike Portions Of Plaintiff’s Complaint” (Document No. 4) was filed on February 18, 2019, and referred to the undersigned on August 14, 2018. By the instant motion Defendant seeks to strike seven (7) paragraphs from the Complaint because they are immaterial and prejudicial. (Document No. 4). This motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review and disposition. See (Document Nos. 5, 8, and 9).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A court “may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Though generally disfavored, courts have broad discretion in ruling on motions to strike. Waste Mgmt. Holdings, Inc. v. Gilmore, 252 F.3d 316, 347 (4th Cir. 2001). “The issue before the Court on a Rule 12(f) motion is not whether evidence is admissible, but whether it is immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous.” Fender v. Biltmore Forest Country Club, Inc., 1:18-CV-043-DLH, 2018 WL 1995532, at *1 (W.D. N.C. April 27, 2018) (quoting Lane v. Endurance Am. Specialty Ins. Co., 3:10-CV-401-MOC-DCK, 2011 WL 1343201, at *3 (W.D. N.C. April 8, 2011)).

Immaterial describes matter that “has no essential or important relationship to the claim for relief or the defenses being pleaded.” 5C Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 1382 (3d ed.). Impertinent describes matter that “do[es] not pertain, and [is] not necessary, to the issues in question.” Id. Scandalous material includes matter that reflects on a party’s moral character or detracts from the dignity of the court. See Cobell v. Norton, 224 F.R.D. 1, 5 (D.D.C. 2004).

Id.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant contends the following paragraphs in Plaintiff’s Complaint are immaterial and prejudicial and should, therefore, be stricken:

18. In its earliest years, the City’s fire brigade consisted of volunteer companies segregated on the basis of race. Once the City's firefighters were paid, Black/ African Americans were excluded.
19. Although the law changed in 1947 so that the CFD could legally hire Black/ African American firefighters, the CFD did not actually hire any Black/African Americans until 1967-a full twenty years later.
21. Upon information and belief, under Chief Fincher, the CFD was approximately 85% white and approximately 15% ...

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