Jehle v. Jehle, 1:18-CV-00589-KG/JHR

CourtUnited States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
PartiesCHLOE JEHLE, Plaintiff, v. KENNETH JEHLE, Defendant.
Docket NumberNo. 1:18-CV-00589-KG/JHR,1:18-CV-00589-KG/JHR
Decision Date22 January 2019

CHLOE JEHLE, Plaintiff,

No. 1:18-CV-00589-KG/JHR


January 22, 2019


This matter is before the Court upon Kenneth Jehle's Motion to Strike [2] filed June 25, 2018. (The parties have the same last name and for clarity will be referred to by their first names hereafter.) Chloe filed a response [6] with errata [7] on July 5, 2018. Kenneth filed a reply [10] on July 23, 2018, completing the briefing.


Chloe filed a Complaint for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress [1-1] on May 4, 2018, in New Mexico's Second Judicial District Court. Kenneth removed the case to federal court [1] on June 25, 2018.

Chloe's complaint [1-1, *2-5] alleges that her father Kenneth "sexually exploited [her] when she was a child" and "[b]y means of coercion, ... unlawfully possessed and/or distributed video of [her] engaged in sexual intercourse." Id., *5, ¶¶ 53-54. Chloe alleges that Kenneth caused her extreme and severe mental distress and did so "intentionally or in reckless disregard for [her] mental health". Id., ¶¶ 57-58.

Kenneth asserts that many of the statements in the complaint should be stricken as false, immaterial, scandalous, or prejudicial, under the authority of Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). Chloe

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concedes that the described events are "scandalous" but denies that they should be stricken from the complaint.


As an initial matter, Chloe asserts that Kenneth failed to follow local rules of procedure when he filed his motion without first consulting with Chloe (through counsel), and that the motion should be denied on that basis. The Court declines to deny the motion on those grounds.

In the U.S. District of New Mexico, a "[m]ovant must determine whether a motion is opposed, and a motion that omits recitation of a good-faith request for concurrence may be summarily denied." D.N.M.LR-Civ. 7.1(a). The rule encourages parties to narrow or even resolve issues without court intervention when possible. By its terms, the rule is discretionary.

Denial of the motion to strike at this time, when all briefing has been done and clearly the parties have broad disagreement about the merits of the motion, would serve little purpose but to delay a ruling on legitimate issues. Therefore, the Court will exercise its discretion to resolve the motion on its merits instead.


Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure says that "[t]he court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." A party may file a motion to strike or the court may act on its own. Id. Whether to grant a motion to strike is a matter of judicial discretion. See Nielsen v. Moroni Feed Co., 162 F.3d 604, 606 n. 3 (10th Cir.1998).

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The consensus of federal caselaw is that motions to strike are not favored and "should be denied unless the challenged allegations have no possible relation or logical connection to the subject matter of the controversy". 5C C. Wright & A. Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ., § 1382 (3d. ed.2004) (footnotes omitted); see, e.g., Payne v. Tri-State Careflight, LLC, 327 F.R.D. 433, 445 (D.N.M. 2018). The party filing a motion to strike has a "formidable" burden to show the violative nature of the material. See Siegel v. HSBC Holdings, plc, 283 F. Supp. 3d 722, 739 (N.D. Ill. 2017) (burden on movant); Gates v. District of Columbia, 66 F. Supp. 3d 1, 27 (D.D.C. 2014) ("formidable" burden). Some federal courts require an additional showing of prejudice, but authority from the U.S. District of New Mexico does not. See Lane v. Page, 272 F.R.D. 581, 598-600 (D.N.M. 2011).


Kenneth challenges specific statements in the complaint (¶¶ 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 44, and 46) as either false or misleading. [2, *2-5]. A challenge to the veracity of a statement is not a proper use of Rule 12(f): a motion to strike does not allow the court to resolve disputed issues of fact. Friedlander v. Cook, NO. CIV 06-1160 JB/DJS, 2008 WL 4868073, *3 (D.N.M. Oct. 4, 2008) (Browning, J.) (The trial court should exercise caution to avoid "making merits decisions that it is not, on the record before it, capable of properly making."). The motion to strike will be denied to the extent that it challenges the veracity of any statements in the complaint.


Kenneth challenges certain statements in the complaint (¶¶ 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 47) as immaterial. For purposes of Rule 12(f), "'[i]mmaterial' matter is that which has no essential or important relationship to the claim for relief or the defenses being

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pleaded, or a statement of unnecessary particulars in connection with and descriptive of that which is material." 5C C. Wright & A. Miller, supra, § 1382 (footnotes omitted). "'Allegations will not be stricken as immaterial under this rule unless they have no possible bearing on the controversy.'" Estate of Gonzales v. AAA Life Ins. Co., 2012 WL 1684599, at *5 (D.N.M. May 8, 2012) (Browning, J.) (quoting Sai Broken Arrow C, LLC v. Guardian Emergency Vehicles, Inc., 2010 WL 132414, at *5 (N.D. Okla. January 8, 2010) (Egan, J.)).

Thus, materiality is evaluated within the context of Chloe's claim that Kenneth intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon her over a period of years through sexual and related psychological abuse. [1, *2-5]. Statements that have any possible bearing on that claim are, for this purpose, material. Estate of Gonzales, 2012 WL 1684599, at *5.

The analysis at this stage is not based upon admissibility of evidence at trial. Assertions in complaints can survive a motion to strike even if based upon inadmissible evidence, see Lipsky v. Commonwealth United Corp., 551 F.2d 887, 893 (2d Cir.1976). The concept of relevance, though, is common to materiality and admissibility. Because of that commonality, rules of admissibility can illustrate the kind of statements that are material to a claim.

Where the claim concerns emotional distress caused by sexual misconduct, Fed. R. Evid. 415 bears inspection because it carves out an exception to the general exclusion of evidence of other crimes or bad acts to prove current behavior consistent with that character. See Fed. R. Evid. 404(b)(1). Through Rule 415, Congress specifically created an exception "[i]n a civil case involving a claim for relief based on a party's alleged sexual assault or child molestation", allowing admission of "evidence that the party committed any other sexual assault or child molestation." Fed. R. Evid. 415(a), enacted in 1995 as part of Pub. L. 103-322, see note to Fed. R. Evid. 413. As Chloe noted in her response [6, *4], the...

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