The Court unanimously denied the appeal. (more…)
Archive for the ‘United States Supreme Court’ Category
Henry S. Noyes, “The Rise of the Common Law of Federal Pleading: Iqbal, Twombly and the Application of Judicial Experience”June 9, 2011
Henry S. Noyes (Chapman University – School of Law) has posted “The Rise of the Common Law of Federal Pleading: Iqbal, Twombly and the Application of Judicial Experience”, Villanova Law Review, Forthcoming/ Chapman University Law Research Paper No. 11-20. The abstract reads:
With its decisions in Twombly and Iqbal, the Supreme Court established a new federal pleading standard: a complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. Many commentators have written about the meaning of plausibility. None has focused on the Court’s statement that “[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief…will be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” In this article, I make and support several claims about the meaning and application of judicial experience. First, in order to understand and define the plausibility standard, one must understand the meaning and application of judicial experience. The requirement that district courts apply judicial experience to resolve a motion to dismiss is a new part of the federal pleading regime, just like the new plausibility standard. Second, the application of judicial experience – as intended by the Supreme Court – requires district courts to consider information and evidence beyond that alleged in the complaint when resolving a motion to dismiss. Third, and contrary to conventional wisdom, the Supreme Court does not intend the application of judicial experience to involve a subjective analysis of the plausibility of a claim. Instead, the Supreme Court intends district courts to consider a larger, objective body of experience – beyond the subjective experience of any particular district court – with similar factual scenarios. Fourth, the Supreme Court anticipates that the application of judicial experience will require district courts to develop a common law of pleading standards that will vary with the type of claim, the type of claimant, the type of defendant and the alleged factual scenario. The Court has expressly denied that plausibility “require[s] heightened fact pleading of specifics,” but what plausibility means is informed by judicial experience. Sometimes plausibility requires more convincing facts (not more specific facts). Finally, I argue that this new pleading regime that requires the application of judicial experience at the pleading stage – even where it is based on objective information – is inappropriate and inconsistent with the adversarial nature of litigation.
A copy of the article is available for download at SSRN here.
- Dustin B. Benham, “Twombly and Iqbal Should (Finally!) Put the Distinction Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Fraud Out of Its Misery” (thetrialwarrior.com)
- The Situational Effects of Iqbal (thesituationist.wordpress.com)
- Sullivan on Iqbal and Employment Discrimination (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Federal Judicial Center Report on the Impact of Twombly/Iqbal (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Today’s SCOTUS Decision in Matrixx Initiatives v. Siracusano: More on Pleading (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
The American Rule is considered by Maureen Cosgrove at Jurist-Paper Chase who reports on “Supreme Court rules party must pay fees for frivolous claims alone“ discussing today’s decision in Fox v. Vice , 563 U. S. ____ (2011) (U.S.S.C.).
Fox claimed that he was the victim of dirty tricks during his successful campaign to become the police chief of Vinton, La., and filed a state-court suit against Vice, the incumbent chief, and the town. Fox’s suit asserted both state-law claims, including defamation, and federal civil rights claims under 42 U. S. C.§1983, including interference with Fox’s right to seek public office. Vice removed the case to federal court based on the §1983 claims. Following discovery, Vice moved for summary judgment on the federal claims, which Fox conceded were invalid.
The District Court dismissed the frivolous claims with prejudice and remanded the remaining claims to state court, noting that Vice’s attorneys’ work could be useful in the state-court proceedings. Vice then asked the federal court for attorney’s fees under §1988, submitting attorney billing records (dockets) estimating time spent on the entire suit, without distinguishing time spent between the dismissed federal claims and the remnant state claims. The court granted the motion on the ground that Fox’s federal claims were frivolous, awarding Fox all of his attorneys’ fees in the suit. Although the state-law allegations had not been found frivolous, the court did not require Vice to parse out the work the attorneys had done on both sets of claims and declined to reduce the fee award to account for the remaining state-law claims, noting that both sides had focused on the deemed frivolous §1983 claims.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Fox’s argument that each individual claim in a suit must be held to be frivolous for the defendant to recover any fees, and agreeing with the District Court that the litigation had focused on the frivolous federal claims.
Writing for the unanimous Court, Kagan, J. notes,
Our legal system generally requires each party to bearhis own litigation expenses, including attorney’s fees, re-gardless whether he wins or loses. Indeed, this principle is so firmly entrenched that it is known as the “American Rule.” See Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. v. Wilderness Society, 421 U. S. 240, 247 (1975). But Congress hasauthorized courts to deviate from this background rule incertain types of cases by shifting fees from one party toanother. See Burlington v. Dague, 505 U. S. 557, 562 (1992) (listing federal fee-shifting provisions). (at 5)
Justice Kagan adds,
” But the presence of these unsuccessful claims does not immunize a defendant against paying for the attorney’s fees that the plaintiff reasonably incurred in remedying a breach of his civil rights.
Analogous principles indicate that a defendant may deserve fees even if not all the plaintiff’s claims were frivolous. In this context, §1988 serves to relieve a defendant of expenses attributable to frivolous charges. The plaintiff acted wrongly in leveling such allegations, and the court may shift to him the reasonable costs that thoseclaims imposed on his adversary. See Christiansburg, 434 U. S., at 420–421. That remains true when the plaintiff’s suit also includes non-frivolous claims. The defendant, of course, is not entitled to any fees arising from these non-frivolous charges. See ibid. But the presence of reasonable allegations in a suit does not immunize the plaintiff against paying for the fees that his frivolous claims imposed. (at 7)
The District Court and Fifth Circuit decisions were reversed and remanded to the District court to apply the “but for” rule for fee-shifting.
Speaking of frivolous lawsuits, (albeit only involving state-law defamation, intentional infliction of emotional harm and intentional interference with contractual relations claims), Eric Turkewitz in his Affidavit in the Rakofsky v. The Internet litigation has deposed that:
- The Texas Cheerleader Case, and the $45,000 Attorney Fees Award (volokh.com)
- Court says victim doesn’t have to pay lawyer fees (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Texas Bill Targets Frivolous Lawsuits (online.wsj.com)
- Defense Fees Awarded In Another Failed EEOC Case : Workplace Class … (workplaceclassaction.com)
- A roundhouse kick to frivolous lawsuit (hotair.com)
- Procedure Reforms in Texas — Losing Plaintiffs Now Pay Costs/fees (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
Following up on my recent post: “Whither Malicious Prosecution“, an unanswered question is whether absolute or qualified immunity for prosecutors in the criminal justice system is legally and morally (if not ethically) justified in a modern society.
In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Connick v. Thompson slams the door on imposing any §1983 liability on local governments for civil damages arising from a wrongful conviction based upon an action pursuant to “official municipal policy”. Essentially, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 margin, rejected establishing a negligence-based “failure-to-train” standard against prosecutors for failing to comply with the Brady v. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83 constitutional requirement of disclosure of exculpatory evidence to the defence.
“Why”, as one commenter, Ted Folkman asked “was the prosecutor who was the actual wrongdoer not liable?” Could not the plaintiff simply have sued the prosecutor who intentionally withheld the evidence of the crime lab report? Even Justice Scalia’s concurrence refers to the “miscreant prosecutor Gerry Deegan’s willful suppression of evidence…in an effort to railroad Thompson”.
The short answer is No. In Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409 (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court established absolute immunity for district attorneys or prosecutors from civil suits resulting from their government duties. See Mike Cernovich’s excellent summary of prosecutorial immunity here.
Some will argue that Imbler does not go so far, as prosecutors are subject to criminal prosecution or professional discipline by state bar associations for suppressing evidence or otherwise putting the administration of justice into disrepute.
No. Not really. (more…)