May 12, 2011
Benham on Twombly/Iqbal and Rule 60(b)
Professor Dustin Benham (Texas Tech) has posted on SSRN a draft of his article, Twombly and Iqbal Should (Finally!) Put the Distinction Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Fraud Out of Its Misery, which is forthcoming in the SMU Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
The proliferation of digital evidence and discovery has raised serious questions about litigation fraud in recent years. Legal tabloids are often headlined with the latest example of discovery abuse that resulted in multi-million dollar sanctions. But what about the cases of serious discovery abuse or perjury that neither the opposing party nor the court ever catch? These abuses may very well lead to judgments that do not reflect a result based on the true merits of the case. If a party seeks relief based on fraud within one year from the entry of judgment, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) gives the trial court plenary power to vacate the judgment. For fraud discovered outside of one year, however, the district court’s powers are more limited, and relief is often contingent upon whether the fraud is deemed intrinsic or extrinsic. Indeed, a majority of the circuits hold that after one year a party cannot obtain post-judgment relief based on perjury or discovery abuse because these frauds are intrinsic. This article contends that the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic fraud should be abolished because Twombly and Iqbal have created an effective pleading-stage screening mechanism to prevent the meritless re-litigation of cases.
This article proceeds in five parts. Part II examines the origins and history of modern post-judgment relief before and after the adoption of Rule 60. Next, Part III explores the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic fraud in the context of independent actions. Part IV of this article addresses the rise of plausibility pleading in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal. In these cases, the Supreme Court overruled Conley v. Gibson, announcing a new pleading paradigm that applies to all civil actions filed in federal court, including a judgment-relief action. In a move away from notice-pleading, the Court held that a civil complaint must plausibly allege a cause of action. Finally, Part V of this article contends that increased pleading scrutiny serves as a better screening mechanism for post-judgment fraud claims than the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic fraud does. By screening fraud claims individually, a court can better assess whether the claim could have been raised in the original litigation. Screening cases for this trait results in a better balance between the often-competing values of judgments that reflect truth and judgments that are final.