Monday, August 31, 2009

Most Important Case of Last USSC Term - Iqbal

It now appears that the most important case decided by the USSC last term will be Ashcroft v. Iqbal. This case clearly resets the standard for filing a complaint in federal court. You can see it on the USSC site or at 129 S.Ct. 1937.

Under the terms of FRCP 8 the only requirement for a complaint is that it contain a "short and plain statement of the claim." This has been the standard since the FRCPs first came into existence in 1938. Under Iqbal, however, the complaint must now contain a "plausible claim for relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950. To make that determination requires the federal District Court ''to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'' This is carte blanche for any District Court to dismiss a case that does not plead specific concrete facts.

A quick review of KeyCite or Shepard's will show that Iqbal has been cited by 1388 times, primarily to support the dismissal of a complaint in federal court. So far, only three courts have declined to extend the case or have distinguished it.

This seems to be a case that was determined by the Court on the basis of its political underpinnings. According to Justice Kennedy, all that the Iqbal complaint plausibly showed ''is that the nation's top law enforcement officers, in the aftermath of a devastating terrorist attack, sought to keep suspected terrorists in the most secure conditions available.'' Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1952.

Although the USSC is a political body, it seems to have carried this political ruling too far into the realm of practical law.

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