The Tao of Pleading: Do Twombly and Iqbal Matter Empirically?
83 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2009 Last revised: 24 Jan 2012
Date Written: February 16, 2010
This article is an empirical study of the effect of Bell Atlantic Corp. vs. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft vs. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009), two recent Supreme Court cases that portend the decline of “notice pleading” in federal civil practice.
The article analyzes how Twombly and Iqbal have begun to dismantle the regime of notice pleading by not only discarding the “no set of facts” standard of Conley vs. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957), but by changing or ignoring other principles that federal courts have followed for decades on 12(b)(6) motions. The statistical study then examines how Twombly and Iqbal may have affected federal district court rulings on 12(b)(6) motions in practice.
The statistical analysis of 1,039 cases shows that 49% of 12(b)(6) motions were granted (with or without leave to amend) in the cases selected (from May 2005 to August 2009). Further, the rate of granting such motions increased from 46% of motions decided under Conley, to 48% of motions decided under Twombly, to 56% of motions decided under Iqbal. A multinomial logistic regression indicates that under Twombly, the odds that a 12(b)(6) motion would be granted with leave to amend, rather than denied, were 1.81 times greater than under Conley, holding all other variables constant. Under Iqbal, the odds that a 12(b)(6) motion would be granted with leave to amend, rather than denied, were over four times greater than under Conley, holding all other variables constant.
Moreover, the largest category of cases in which 12(b)(6) motions are filed was constitutional civil rights. Motions to dismiss in constitutional civil rights cases were granted at a higher rate (53%) than in cases overall (49%), and the rate of granting 12(b)(6) motions in constitutional civil rights cases increased in the cases selected from Conley (50%) to Twombly (55%) to Iqbal (60%).
The article concludes that Twombly and Iqbal have resulted in a noticeable increase in the granting of 12(b)(6) motions by district courts, and suggests that such a result, if desirable, should be accomplished by the normal rule-amendment process.
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