Two New Articles on Pleading Standards (Twombly and Iqbal) #SSRN

For American litigators, there are two new papers on SSRN discussing pleading standards under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure following Bell Atlantic v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal.

The first is an article by Suzette M. Malveaux, Catholic University of America – Columbus School of Law, “Front Loading and Heavy Lifting: How Pre-Dismissal Discovery Can Address the Detrimental Effect of Iqubal on Civil Rights CasesLewis & Clark Law Review, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 65-141, 2010/ CUA Columbus School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-13. Here is the abstract:

Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are trans-substantive, they have a greater detrimental effect on certain substantive claims. In particular, the Supreme Court’s recent interpretation of Rule 8(a)(2)’s pleading requirement and Rule 12(b)(6)’s dismissal criteria – in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal – sets forth a plausibility pleading standard which makes it more difficult for potentially meritorious civil rights claims alleging intentional discrimination to survive dismissal. Such claims are more vulnerable to dismissal because: plaintiffs alleging intentional discrimination often plead facts consistent with both legal and illegal conduct; discriminatory intent is often difficult, if not impossible, to unearth pre-discovery because of informational inequities between the parties; and the plausibility standard’s subjective nature fails to provide sufficient guidance to courts ruling on dismissal motions. This increased risk of dismissal threatens to undermine civil rights enforcement, compromise court access, and incentivize unethical conduct. In response to this risk, courts are empowered and encouraged to utilize narrow, targeted, pre-dismissal discovery to determine plausibility at the pleading stage (“plausibility discovery”) so that the trans-substantive application of the Rules does not work an injustice against civil rights and other cases involving informational inequities. Courts should consider permitting some limited discovery towards the front of the litigation (front loading) for the purpose of determining a case’s viability (heavy lifting). Courts already use early, targeted, pre-merits discovery to resolve threshold issues such as class certification, qualified immunity and jurisdiction. These models, while imperfect, illustrate how courts are willing and able to order clearly defined, narrow discovery to successfully resolve various preliminary litigation matters. Similarly, plausibility discovery is authorized and justified on policy grounds. This Article concludes with the types of arguments parties are likely to make post-Iqbal and a roadmap for how courts can order plausibility discovery while equitably balancing the parties’ competing interests.

The second article is by Daphna Kapeliuk and Alon Klement, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliyah – Radzyner School of Law, entitled “Contracting Around Twombly.” Here is 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

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