Applause for the Plausible

10 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2014 Last revised: 5 Aug 2014

Brandon L. Garrett

Duke University School of Law

Date Written: February 14, 2014


This short essay examines the seemingly contradictory definitions and associations of the word "plausible," which the Supreme Court unexpectedly elevated to a key gatekeeping role for all of federal civil litigation in its rulings altering the pleading standard in Twombly and Iqbal. Justices, judges and commentators have not focused on what "plausible" means, for some good reasons; it carries with it connotations of the "reasonable" and the "fair" but also "superficial," "often specious" and "pretext." I can offer only a plausible defense of the seemingly contradictory meanings of this word deployed to regulate allegations in federal complaints, for which the transparency of its vice is, for better and for worse, its main virtue.

Keywords: Pleading, Civil Procedure, Twombly, Iqbal

Suggested Citation

Garrett, Brandon L., Applause for the Plausible (February 14, 2014). University of Pennsylvania Law Review Online, 2014; Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2014-17. Available at SSRN:

Brandon L. Garrett (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States
919-613-7090 (Phone)


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