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Iqbal and Bad Apples

19 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2009  

Michael C. Dorf

Cornell Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 7, 2009


As numerous commentators have observed, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Ashcroft v. Iqbal has profound implications for the law of pleading and supervisory liability in civil rights suits. Yet the case is important for the public understanding of American detainee policy as well. Throughout the Bush Administration and continuing into the Obama Administration, the government has sought to portray abusive treatment of detainees as the work of "a few bad apples," even as formerly secret documents reveal what was an official policy of abuse. In deeming the allegation that Iqbal's discriminatory mistreatment was ordered by the former Attorney General and FBI Director not "plausible," the Supreme Court lent its imprimatur to the false but widespread few-bad-apples narrative.

Suggested Citation

Dorf, Michael C., Iqbal and Bad Apples (October 7, 2009). Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-025. Available at SSRN: or

Michael C. Dorf (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States


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