Fictitious defendants in Federal U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

 

California Code of Civil Procedure allows fictitious defendants, that is, naming unknown defendants, which you will commonly see in a caption (such as “Doe 1” or “Does 1-50, inclusive”).  See California Code of Civil Procedure § 474.

The use of Doe (fictitiously named defendants) in federal questions cases is permissible when the complaint alleges why the defendant’s real name was not known. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 390, fn. 2, 91 S. Ct. 1999, 2001, 29 L. Ed. 2d 619 (1971). Central District of California Local Rules Rule 19-1 limits the Complaint to no more than ten Doe or fictitiously named parties.

Though there is an easy way to add fictitiously named defendants in California Superior Court, the way to do it in U.S. District the Central District of California is by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 15(a)(2), and Rule 21:

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 15(a)(2) reads:

          (a) Amendments Before Trial.

. . .

(2) Other Amendments. In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading

only with the opposing party’s written consent or the court’s leave. The

court should freely give leave when justice so requires. Fed. R. Civ. P.

15(a)(2)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 21 provides, in pertinent part, that “[o]n motion or on its own, the court may at any time, on just terms, add or drop a party. . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 21.

“Fed.R.Civ.P. 15 places leave to amend, after a brief period in which a party may amend as of right, within the sound discretion of the trial court. [Citations omitted]. In exercising this discretion, a court must be guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate decision on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities. [Citations omitted]. Accordingly, Rule 15’s policy of favoring amendments to pleadings should be applied with ‘extreme liberality.’” United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981).

“If the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief, he ought to be afforded an opportunity to test his claim on the merits. In the absence of any apparent or declared reason-such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc.-the leave sought should, as the rules require, be ‘freely given’.”  Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S. Ct. 227, 230, 9 L. Ed. 2d 222 (1962).

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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