Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Today's U.S. Law Week features an article by David Borgen and Lin Chan entitled Clash of the Titans: Iqbal and Wage and Hour Class/Collective Actions (78 U.S.L.W. 2643). It begins:
"The U.S. Supreme Court's new pleading standards have set the stage for a new 'clash of the titans,' as emboldened employers seek to utilize their new weapon against the current heavyweight of the courts' dockets, the wage and hour class and collective actions. As expected, management counsel have rushed into the battlefield filing newly styled motions to dismiss. However, the wage-and-hour causes of action have proven to be resistant to this new attack."
Friday, April 23, 2010
As covered earlier here, an SEC civil action against defendants who were allegedly involved in the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme was recently dismissed for failing to satisfy federal pleading standards. (See SEC v. Cohmad Securities Corp., No. 09-CV-5680, 2010 WL 363844, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8597.)
"[W]e always thought the SEC had it easier than private plaintiffs because it could bring actions against aiders and abetters and didn't have to deal with pleading requirements of the PSLRA. I guess Iqbal somehow levels that playing field, although possibly not in the right direction.
"The Cohmad case seemed to be the easiest case to bring, and maybe it would have been for the DOJ, who operates under different and sometimes easier rules for securities cases than civil rules. Judge Stanton did dismiss without prejudice with leave to replead for 30 days, but that deadline passed over a month ago.
"So, will the Goldman complaint survive the inevitable Motion to Dismiss?"
We'll find out soon enough. No doubt the attorneys for Goldman Sachs and Fabrice Tourre are preparing their 12(b)(6) motions as we speak.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Daphna Kapeliuk and Alon Klement (Interdisciplinary Center Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law) have posted on SSRN their forthcoming article Contracting Around Twombly, 60 DePaul L. Rev. (forthcoming Oct. 2010). Here's the abstract:
The Supreme Court's recent decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal have generated a heated debate over which is the most just and efficient transsubstantive pleading standard. Unlike the vast scholarship that followed these decisions, we do not take sides in this debate. Instead, we focus on a subset of cases in which litigants have prior contractual relationships. We argue that if contracting parties are allowed to contract around the Twombly pleading standard, they will be able to overcome problems of inadequate screening and to realize both pre-dispute and post-dispute opportunities that would prove unfeasible otherwise.
Hence, we propose a novel approach for addressing the question whether the Twombly standard performs better than its predecessor in contract cases. We suggest that the answer to this question should be informed by analyzing the costs of modifying the Twombly standard and the difficulties in implementing such modification, in addition to the proportion of cases where this modification would have been chosen by contracting parties. As we show, even if aggregatively, over all contracts, the Twombly pleading standard would have been chosen less often, it may still promise improved efficiency and justice in contract cases, due to the lower costs of contracting around it.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
"DRI announces its annual Law Student Diversity Scholarship program open to incoming second and third-year African American, Hispanic, Asian, Pan Asian and Native American students. Incoming second and third-year female law students are also eligible, regardless of race or ethnicity."
The deadline is May 3, 2010, and applicants must submit an essay (no more than 1,000 words) on the following topic:
Did Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal really break new ground and sound a death knell for plaintiffs in federal civil litigation; and is the “anti-Twombly and Iqbal” Notice Pleading Restoration Act of 2009 introduced by Senator Specter to require the federal courts to follow traditional civil procedure rules for filing lawsuits really necessary?
More details available here.
(Hat Tip: Austyn Sanders)
Professor Edward A. Harnett (Seton Hall University School of Law) has posted "Responding To Twombly and Iqbal: Where Do We Go from Here?" on SSRN. It will be published in the Iowa Law Review Bulletin.
The abstract states:
Monday, April 5, 2010
Professor Scott Dodson (William & Mary School of Law) has posted "Federal Pleading and State Presuit Discovery" on SSRN. It will be published in the Lewis & Clark Law Review.
The abstract states:
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Professor Suzette M. Malveaux (Catholic University School of Law) has posted "Front Loading and Heavy Lifting: How Pre-Dismissal Discovery Can Address the Detrimental Effect of Iqbal on Civil Right Cases" on SSRN. It will be published in Lewis & Clark Law Review.
The abstract states:
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Howard Wasserman (Florida International) has posted on SSRN his recent symposium piece, Iqbal, Procedural Mismatches, and Civil Rights Litigation, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 157 (2010). Here's the abstract:
Understanding the twin pleading cases of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal from the vantage point of only a few months (or even years) requires as much prediction as explanation. Early confusion is a product of the long-heralded link between substance and procedure. What we are seeing now may be less about Court-imposed changes to procedure as about changes to substantive law and a “mismatch” between new substance and the old procedure of the Federal Rules. Much of the current business of federal courts involves constitutional litigation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Bivens, a species of civil action unheard of when the Federal Rules and the system of notice pleading and broad, wide-ranging discovery were created in 1938. That pleading system arguably does not work with such “modern” litigation and Iqbal reflects the Court’s effort to make federal pleading and discovery rules more consistent and more functional with this particularly vulnerable area of new federal substance. Unfortunately, the greater detail demanded by the new pleading rules may be impossible in many civil rights cases, where plaintiffs cannot know or plead essential information with particularity at the outset without the benefit of discovery - discovery that Iqbal stands to deny to plaintiffs who fail to plead with the necessary detail. The predictable result, illustrated by one Ninth Circuit decision just two months after Iqbal, will be a significant decrease in enforcement and vindication of federal constitutional and civil rights.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The Blog of the Legal Times is reporting an interesting development on the effort to legislatively overrule the Supreme Court's pleading decisions in Ashcroft v. Iqbal and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly (see earlier coverage here, here, here, here, and here). The story Christian Group Joins Campaign on Pleading Standard begins:
"The conservative Alliance Defense Fund is lining up in opposition to a pair of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that changed the standard for filing most civil lawsuits — a move that aligns the Christian litigation group with some unlikely allies."
For a copy of the Alliance Defense Fund's letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy, see here.
(Hat Tip: How Appealing)
Friday, March 12, 2010
The SEC's civil action against defendants allegedly involved in the Madoff ponzi scheme ran up against federal pleading standards in a recent decision from the Southern District of New York. The case is SEC v. Cohmad Securities Corp., No. 09-CV-5680, and docket information is available here. Judge Stanton's decision is at 2010 WL 363844 or 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8597. Here are some excerpts:
"[N]owhere does the complaint allege any fact that would have put defendants on notice of Madoff's fraud. Rather, the complaint supports the reasonable inference that Madoff fooled the defendants as he did individual investors, financial institutions, and regulators.
. . .
[T]he SEC has failed to allege facts giving rise to a plausible inference of the Cohns' or Jaffe's fraudulent intent, and the securities fraud claims against them are dismissed. Since the SEC has failed to plead the Cohns' or Jaffe's fraudulent intent (and it does not argue that Madoff's intent can be imputed to Cohmad), the securities fraud claims against Cohmad are dismissed as well."
The SEC was granted leave to replead.
(Hat Tip: Paul Stancil)
Thursday, March 11, 2010
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.
Professor Benjamin Spencer (Washington & Lee University School of Law) posted "Iqbal and the Slide Toward Restrictive Procedure" on SSRN. It will be published in the Lewis & Clark Law Review.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Last week Judge Wayne Andersen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's motion to dismiss a lawsuit that was filed against him by two contractors who allege they were detained and mistreated while in Iraq. The case is Vance v. Rumsfeld, 1:06-cv-06964 (N.D Ill.), and Judge Andersen's opinion can be found here (courtesy of the Legal Times' Blog, which has additional coverage here). The docket is available via Justia or Pacer.
As for last Term's Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, Judge Andersen wrote:
"Iqbal undoubtedly requires vigilance on our part to ensure that claims which do not state a plausible claim for relief are not allowed to occupy the time of high-ranking government officials. It is not, however, a categorical bar on claims against these officials."
Relying on the Ninth Circuit's decision in Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949 (9th Cir. 2009), Judge Andersen concluded that "the allegations of Rumsfeld's personal involvement in unconstitutional activity are sufficiently detailed to raise the right to relief above the speculative level and would survive a motion to dismiss."
Monday, February 22, 2010
The Lewis & Clark Law Review Symposium "Pondering Iqbal" is now available on-line here. Contributions include:
Edward Brunet, The Substantive Origins of “Plausible Pleadings”: An Introduction to the Symposium on Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 1 (2010)
Suja A. Thomas, The New Summary Judgment Motion: The Motion to Dismiss Under Iqbal and Twombly, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 15 (2010)
Scott Dodson, Federal Pleading and State Presuit Discovery, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 43 (2010)
Suzette M. Malveaux, Front Loading and Heavy Lifting: How Pre-Dismissal Discovery Can Address the Detrimental Effect of Iqbal on Civil Rights Cases, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 65 (2010)
Hillel Y. Levin, Iqbal, Twombly, and the Lessons of the Celotex Trilogy, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 143 (2010)
Howard M. Wasserman, Iqbal, Procedural Mismatches, and Civil Rights Litigation, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 157 (2010)
A. Benjamin Spencer, Iqbal and the Slide Toward Restrictive Procedure, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 185 (2010)
Tung Yin, “I Do Not Think [Implausible] Means What You Think It Means”: Iqbal v. Ashcroft and Judicial Vouching for Government Officials, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 203 (2010)
Michael C. Dorf, Iqbal and Bad Apples, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 217 (2010)
Juliet P. Stumpf, The Implausible Alien: Iqbal and the Influence of Immigration Law, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 231 (2010)
Stephen I. Vladeck, National Security and Bivens After Iqbal, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 255 (2010)
(Hat Tip: John Parry)
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Prof. Benjamin Spencer (Washington & Lee) has posted on SSRN his forthcoming piece, Iqbal and the Slide Toward Restrictive Procedure, part of the Lewis & Clark Law Review's symposium on Ashcroft v. Iqbal. Here's the abstract:
Last term, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Supreme Court affirmed its commitment to more stringent pleading standards in the ordinary federal civil case. Although the decision is not a watershed, since it merely underscoresthe substantial changes to pleading doctrine wrought in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, Iqbal is disconcerting for at least two reasons. First, the Court treated Iqbal’s factual allegations in a manner that further erodes the assumption-of-truth rule that has been the cornerstone of modern federal civil pleading practice. The result is an approach to pleading that is governed by a subjective, malleable standard that permits judges to reject pleadings based on their own predilections or “experience and common sense.” Such an approach undermines consistency and predictability in the pleading area and supplants, in no small measure, the traditional fact-finding role of the jury. Second, the Court struck a blow against the liberal ethos in civil procedure by endorsing pleading standards that will make it increasingly difficult for members of societal out-groups to challenge the unlawful practices of dominant interests such as employers, government officials, or major corporations. Thus, although Iqbal ultimately does not go much further than Twombly in reshaping civil pleading standards, the decision is an important milestone in the steady slide toward restrictiveness that has characterized procedural doctrine in recent years.
Friday, February 12, 2010
As covered earlier here, the Penn State Law Review is sponsoring a symposium entitled: "Reflections on Iqbal: Discerning Its Rule, Grappling with Its Implications." It's on Friday, March 26, 2010 at Penn State's Carlisle campus (simulcast to the University Park campus). If you're interested in attending or participating, see the following announcement from Penn State Prof. Nancy Welsh:
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
The papers are:
Foreword: Procedure as Palimpsest
Sunday, February 7, 2010
This is a report from the Federal Judicial Center of data concerning motions to dismiss in the months before and after both Twombly and Iqbal. The data are subject to some important limitations, such as the fact that it does not distinguish between 12(b)(6) and other Rule 12 motions, and the fact that many cases settle before motions are decided -- settlements that themselves might reflect parties perception of the law. It also does not include information on whether complaints were dismissed with or without prejudice.
H/T Kevin Clermont
Monday, January 25, 2010
I've been guest-blogging over at Concurring Opinions, and I have a few posts discussing how courts ought to make sense of federal pleading standards after Ashcroft v. Iqbal, what lower courts are actually doing, and the bills now pending in Congress to legislatively override Iqbal. Here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
These posts summarize and build on some of the arguments in my article, The Pleading Problem, 62 Stanford L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming May 2010), the latest draft of which is up on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Federal pleading standards are in crisis. The Supreme Court's recent decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal have the potential to upend civil litigation as we know it. What is urgently needed is a theory of pleading that can bring Twombly and Iqbal into alignment with the text of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and a half-century worth of Supreme Court precedent, while providing a coherent methodology that preserves access to the courts and allows pleadings to continue to play their appropriate role in the adjudicative process. This article provides that theory. It develops a new paradigm -- plain pleading -- as an alternative to both notice pleading (which the pre-Twombly era was widely understood to endorse) and plausibility pleading (which many read Twombly and Iqbal to endorse). As a functional matter, this new paradigm is largely consistent with notice pleading, but it stands on firmer textual footing and avoids some of the conceptual problems that arise when notice is the exclusive frame of reference. Moreover, it is able to reconcile Twombly and Iqbalwith pre-Twombly authority.
A careful reading of Twombly and Iqbal undermines the conventional wisdom that they require a stricter approach to pleading. First, Twombly and Iqbaldid not overrule the most significant pre-Twombly authorities. The only aspect of prior case law that these decisions set aside was a misunderstood 50-year-old phrase whose real meaning was never called into question. Furthermore, Iqbal's two-step analysis confirms that the problematic plausibility standard employed in Twombly and Iqbalis neither the primary inquiry at the pleadings phase nor a necessary one. The threshold issue is whether a crucial allegation in a complaint may be disregarded as "conclusory"; then and only then does the "plausibility" of an entitlement relief become dispositive. While there remains some uncertainty about what conclusory means, authoritative pre-Twombly sources -- the Federal Rules, their Forms, and Supreme Court decisions that remain good law -- foreclose any definition that would give courts drastic new powers to disregard allegations at the pleadings phase.