March 11, 2010
Hartnett on Responding to Twombly and Iqbal
Professor Edward Hartnett (Seton Hall) has posted on SSRN his essay Responding to Twombly and Iqbal: Where Do We Go from Here?, to be published later this month in the Iowa Law Review Bulletin. Here's the abstract:
As reflected in the title of their article, Inventing Tests, Destabilizing Systems, Professors Clermont and Yeazell contend that the Supreme Court in Twombly and Iqbal invented a “new and foggy test” for judging the sufficiency of a complaint and “have destabilized the entire system of litigation.” As they see it, the Court’s approach is “thoroughly new,” and the Court “effectively creat[ed] a civil procedure hitherto foreign to our fundamental procedural principles.”
Elsewhere, I have offered a more-optimistic take on these cases, emphasizing the connections these decisions have with prior law and suggesting ways in which they can be tamed. See Taming Twombly—Even After Iqbal, 158 U. Pa. L. Rev. 473 (2010). Rather than rehash those arguments here, I instead take up Professors Clermont and Yeazell’s challenging question, “Where Do We Go from Here?” and address several of the proposals made to respond to Twombly and Iqbal by statute or rule amendment.
I also offer my own proposal, which focuses on the core issue at stake in debates about Twombly and Iqbal: should a plaintiff be able to obtain discovery in an effort to uncover evidence without which he or she cannot prevail? My proposal has something to offer plaintiffs, defendants, and the judicial system. I believe it represents an improvement over the current law and better than other proposed legislative and rulemaking responses to Twombly and Iqbal. Surely it could be improved by the perspectives of others in the academy, on the bench, or at the bar. Nevertheless, in deciding where we go from here, stumbling in the right direction is better than standing still or trying to go backwards.
And from the text, here is Professor Hartnett's proposal to amend the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He argues for adding the following language to Rule 12:
Rule 12(j): Allegations Likely To Have Evidentiary Support After a Reasonable Opportunity for Discovery
If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c) that has not been deferred until trial, the claim sought to be dismissed includes an allegation specifically identified as provided in Rule 11(b)(3) as likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for discovery, the court must either (1) assume the truth of the allegation, or (2) decide whether the allegation is likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for discovery. In deciding whether an allegation is likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for discovery, the court must consider the parties‘ access to evidence in the absence of discovery and state on the record the reason for its decision.
If the court decides that the allegation is likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for discovery, it must allow for that discovery, under the standards of Rule 26, and deny the motion to dismiss. If the court decides that the allegation is not likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for discovery, the court must treat the motion as one for summary judgment under Rule 56, and provide all parties a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.
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