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In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the U.S. Supreme Court held in May 2009 that a Pakistani Muslim's complaint of discrimination by high-level officials had to be dismissed unless its allegations were made more specific. In reaching that result the Court wrote,
To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.
Within days, defendants across the country began moving to dismiss consumers' rights, workers' rights and civil rights lawsuits, arguing that the Iqbal holding dramatically changed the rules for pleading a claim in federal court.
In fact, the rule in the U.S. has always been that a plaintiff's complaint need only contain a "short and plain statement" of the claim showing an entitlement to relief. Nonetheless, defendants are arguing that almost any allegation is too conclusory to be sufficient, that a wide variety of previously accepted claims are implausible, and that Iqbal eliminated supervisory liability for high-ranking officials.
Public Justice's Iqbal Project -- established in November 2009 -- is designed to stop improper use of the Iqbal decision and preserve plaintiffs' right to their day in court.
The Project's most recent win came in an appeal before the Sixth Circuit. In Rhodes v. R+L Carriers, we argued successfuly that a plaintiff's claim of retaliation and discrimination by his employer was sufficient under the Iqbal standard and should not have been dismissed by a lower court. The Sixth Circuit agreed.