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Joubert v. Hussain

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

September 23, 2019




         Before the Court are Defendants Zachary Hussain, Sondy Lawrence, Tina Bland, Victory Duncan, Jim Hannah, Harriet Coles, Michael Newman, Cheri Newman, Lisa Childs, Waylon Cawley, and Edna Awad's ("Individual Defendants") motion for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. 17) and Defendant Columbia County, Georgia's ("Defendant Columbia County") motion to strike portions of the amended complaint[1] (Doc. 34) . As an initial matter, the Court DENIES AS MOOT the motion for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. 17). After the Individual Defendants filed their motion, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint.[2] "It is well-established that an amended complaint super[s]edes an original complaint and renders the original complaint without legal effect." Renal Treatment Ctrs.-Mid-Atl., Inc. v. Franklin Chevrolet-Cadillac-Pontiac-GMC, No. 608CV087, 2009 WL 995564, at *1 (S.D. Ga. Apr. 13, 2009) (quoting In re Wireless Tel. Fed. Cost Recovery Fees Litig., 396 F.3d 922, 928 (8th Cir. 2005)) (citing Fritz v. Standard Sec. Life Ins. Co. of N.Y., 676 F.2d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir. 1982)); accord Dresdner Bank AG v. M/V Qlympia Voyager, 463 F.3d 1210, 1215 (11th Cir. 2006) (finding that the prior complaint "is no longer a part of the pleader's averments against his adversary"); Malowney v. Fed. Collection Deposit Grp., 193 F.3d 1342, 1345 n.l (11th Cir. 1999) ("An amended complaint supersedes an original complaint."). Here, the amended complaint supersedes the original complaint effectively mooting Individual Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings.

         The Court now turns to the pending motion to strike. Defendant Columbia County argues Plaintiffs' amended complaint contains material protected by the attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine. (Mot. to Strike, Doc. 22, at 1.) Thus, according to Defendant Columbia County, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), the Court should strike the protected material. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Defendant Columbia County's motion (Doc. 34).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The relevant facts are not in dispute. Kowanda Tenkapowom owns property located at 225 Anneswood Road, Martinez, Georgia 30907, which housed a personal care home. (Am. Compl., ¶ 63; Personal Care Home Permit, Doc. 32-1.) On June 21, 2018, Plaintiff Olga Acevedo and Ms. Tenkapowom applied to Columbia County to have the property rezoned from R-3 to S-l. (Zoning Application, Doc. 32-5.) On August 2, 2018, the Columbia County Planning Commission considered the rezoning request. (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 65-66.) The Columbia County Board of Commissioners ultimately denied the rezoning request. (Rezoning Decision, Doc. 32-10.)

         Thereafter, Plaintiff Acevedo filed an Open Records Act Request with Defendant Columbia County for all zoning applications and documents held by the Columbia County Planning Department related to specific properties. (Patrice Crawley's Decl., Doc. 31-1, ¶ 6; Reply Supp. Mot. to Strike, Doc. 31, at 3.) One such property was located at 339 Marshall Place, Martinez, Georgia 30907. (Patrice Crawley's Decl., ¶ 6.) In 2007, the Planning Commission was faced with a rezoning request for the property located at 339 Marshall Place. (Id.; Am- Compl., ¶ 125.) Defendant Columbia County sought legal advice on its options around the rezoning request, which was to change the "S-l zoning to expand the permitted uses on the property from care for elderly to services for people with disabilities including 'severely handicapped, developmental disabilities and substance abusers.'" (Letter, Doc. 32-9, at 1.) Counsel's letter in response (the "Letter") is attached to the amended complaint as Exhibit L.

         Plaintiffs do not dispute that the Letter contains opinion work product and was protected by the attorney-client privilege. (See Resp. to Mot. to Strike, Doc. 26, at 4.) Plaintiffs possess the Letter because, in responding to the open records act, Defendant Columbia County inadvertently produced the Letter. (Id.) Plaintiffs do not challenge that the disclosure was inadvertent. (See id. at 8.)

         Defendant Columbia County filed the present motion to strike the Letter and all references thereto under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). Because the parties agree that the Letter was privileged, protected, and inadvertently disclosed, the only question remaining for the Court is whether Defendant Columbia County shows the Court that the Letter should be struck from the record under Rule 12(f).


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), "The court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." The Court has "broad discretion in considering a motion to strike under [Rule] 12(f)." Bledsaw v. Carnival Corp., No. 15-23647, 2015 WL 9594296, at *1 (S.D. Fla. Dec. 30, 2015); see Bingham v. HCA, Inc., Fed.Appx. 2019 WL 3451045, at *5 (11th Cir. 2019) ("We review the district court's grant of [the defendant] 's motion to strike alleged facts from [the plaintiff] 's [complaint] under [Rule] 12(f) for an abuse of discretion. . . . The abuse of discretion standard allows a range of choice for the district court, so long as that choice does not constitute a clear error of judgment." (internal citations omitted)). Furthermore, "[s]triking allegations from a pleading . . . 'is a drastic remedy to be resorted to only when required for the purposes of justice' and only when the stricken allegations have 'no possible relation to the controversy."' Bledsaw, 2015 WL 9594296, at *1 (quoting Augustus v. Bd. of Pub. Instruction of Escambia Cty., 306 F.2d 862, 868 (5th Cir. 1962)).


         Defendant Columbia County argues that the Court should strike the Letter and any reference thereto under Rule 12(f) because the Letter (1) is redundant, immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous and (2) contains protected information. For the reasons discussed below, the Court declines to use its discretion to strike the requested material from the record.

         1. Redundant, Immaterial, Impertinent, or Scandalous

         Defendant Columbia County states that the Letter contains information that is redundant, immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous and the Court has the authority to "narrow[] the issues to those allegations that are relevant and properly before the Court." (Mot. to Strike, at 5-6.) Plaintiffs respond that the Letter is relevant, serving "as evidence that not only did the County violate federal law, but that they ...

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