Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sixth Circuit and Twombly - New Decision

Today the CA6 came out with its first decision regarding pleadings since the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly. This provides those of us who practice in the Federal District Courts that make up the CA6 (Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan) with the first insight into how the CA6 believes pleadings are effected by Twombly.

The case is Lindsay v. Yates, N0. 06-4430, an appeal from a decision of the Northern District of Ohio. The District Court had dismissed the complaint for failure to plead facts sufficient to establish each element of a primar facie case of racial discrimination. Although the dismissal was pursuant to Federal Rule 12(c), the standard is the same as that for dismissal under 12(b)(6) and arguably Twombly applies. The CA6 had this to say about Twombly, and it's heightened pleading requirements:

Swierkiewicz was discussed extensively by the dissent in the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, __ U.S. __, 127 S. Ct. 1955 (2007). Twombly addressed requirements for pleading an antitrust claim under § 1 of the Sherman Act. The dissent argued that the Twombly majority had devised a “new pleading rule” that called into question the continued vitality of Swierkiewicz. 127 S. Ct. at 1974 (Stevens, J., dissenting). Because the Supreme Court majority distinguished Swierkiewicz and nowhere expressed an intent to overturn it, we have no basis for concluding that Swierkiewicz is no longer good law. Moreover, although this case does not present the question of if, or exactly how, Twombly has changed the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), we note that in Erickson v. Pardus, __ U.S. __, 127 S. Ct. 2197 (2007), decided after Twombly, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that Rule 8(a) “requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. At 2200 (internal quotation marks omitted) (concluding that the petitioner had stated an Eighth Amendment claim where he alleged that prison officials had endangered his life by removing him from hepatitis C medication shortly after he began a year-long treatment regimen, that he was still in need of the treatment, and that prison officials continued to deny him treatment). In any event, for the reasons described infra, we conclude that the Lindsays have pleaded sufficient facts giving rise to a “reasonably founded hope that the discovery process will reveal relevant evidence” to support their claims. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. at 1967 (internal quotation marks omitted).

From this, it seems that the CA6 is willing to provide somewhat less scrutiny to complaints than many think is required by Twombly. They place reliance upon the Erickson case, decided after Twombly, in which the Supreme Court appeared to utilize the old pleading rules, thus the complaint in the instant case was upheld.

I imagine that this is just the first of many cases in which the CA6, and the other circuits, will struggle to define what the exact requirements actually are. Perhaps the Supreme Court will clarify in the upcoming term, or at the very least, the term after that.


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