Sixth Circuit Adopts More Permissive Interpretation of Rule 24(c)
The Sixth Circuit, in Providence Baptist Church v. Hillandale Committee, Ltd., 425 F.3d 309 (6th Cir. Oct. 05, 2005) has taken a position with respect to an issue that currently divides the circuits: the impact of procedural defects under Rule 24(c) on an intervenor's attempt to intervene in an action. The precise issue at stake here was whether the district court abused its discretion in denying intervention based on the intervenor's failure to include a pleading along with their motion to intervene. The court concluded that such a ruling was an abuse of discretion. Here's an excerpt from the case:
The circuits appear to be split in their approach to enforcement of Rule 24(c), with a majority favoring a permissive interpretation of the rule. With the exception of a 1951 case involving quite different circumstances from those of this case, this Court apparently has not considered whether failure to file a pleading as required by Rule 24(c) should be grounds for denying the motion.
At least four circuits have taken a lenient approach to the requirements of Rule 24(c). The D.C. Circuit has explained that " 'procedural defects in connection with intervention motions should generally be excused by a court,' " particularly where there is no claim that the parties do not have notice of the intervenor's appeal. Mass. v. Microsoft Corp., 373 F.3d 1199, n. 19 (D.C.Cir.2004) (quoting McCarthy v. Kleindienst, 741 F.2d 1406, 1416 (D.C.Cir.1984)). The Eleventh Circuit has similarly suggested that "inconsequential" procedural noncompliance with the requirements of Rule 24 should be excused. Piambino v. Bailey, 757 F.2d 1112, 1121 (11th Cir.1985). The Fourth Circuit has held "the proper approach [to Rule 24(c) ] is to disregard non-prejudicial technical defects." Spring Constr. Co. v. Harris, 614 F.2d 374, 377 (4th Cir.1980). The Fifth Circuit has permitted intervention even in the absence of a motion to intervene, citing Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(e)(1) ("[n]o technical forms of pleadings or motions are required") and Rule 8(f) ("[a]ll pleadings shall be so construed as to do substantial justice"). Farina v. Mission Inv. Trust, 615 F.2d 1068, 1074 (5th Cir.1980).
The First, Second, and Seventh Circuits have taken a stricter approach to Rule 24(c). See Public Service Co. of New Hampshire v. Patch, 136 F.3d 197, 205, n. 6 (1st Cir.1998) (failure to accompany motion to intervene with a pleading setting forth a claim or defense "ordinarily would warrant dismissal" of the motion); Abramson v. Pennwood Inv. Corp., 392 F.2d 759, 761 (2nd Cir.1968) ("appellant's reference in his motion papers to the allegations of the original complaint was insufficient to comply with the requirements of Rule 24(c)"); Shevlin v. Schewe, 809 F.2d 447, 450 (7th Cir.1987) ( "Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(c) is unambiguous in defining the procedure for an intervenor," and requires a pleading to accompany the motion to intervene). However, the Seventh Circuit in Shevlin emphasized that a court may excuse a non-prejudicial failure to comply with the requirements of Rule 24(c), but saw no reason to do so in that case, where the attempted intervenor not only did not timely file a pleading, but in fact did not at any time offer the requisite pleading. Id.
We conclude that the district court abused its discretion in rejecting Hillandale Committee's motion to intervene on the basis that it failed to attach a pleading. . . . The district court's exacting application of Rule 24(c) is not in accord with the jurisprudence of a majority of the Circuits, which favor a permissive approach, or with the rationale applied by other circuits to approve strict enforcement of Rule 24(c) in some circumstances (e.g., where the parties are not on notice as to the grounds asserted for intervention, or there is some other prejudice to the parties).