Defendants received a much-needed dose of judicial pain relief earlier this year when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, which reaffirmed and amplified its landmark 2007 decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly. In Iqbal, a Pakistani terrorism suspect alleged he was subjected to unconstitutional treatment while in pretrial detention. He sued former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former FBI Director Robert Mueller for allegedly adopting a policy that purposefully discriminated against him. The Supreme Court reversed the Second Circuit's denial of the defendant's motion to dismiss, reasoning that Iqbal's claim, though possible, was not plausible.

Together, Iqbal and Twombly have substantially revamped the pleading standards under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), making it significantly easier for defendants to avoid the time and costs of discovery in meritless cases by filing pre-answer motions to dismiss. This article discusses some of the key points in the Iqbal decision, as well as its implications for the defense bar.

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