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Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009)
In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the United States Supreme Court held Javaid Iqbal failed to state a claim for Bivens liability against former United States Attorney General John Ashcroft and former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller. Iqbal was arrested and detained in the United States as a person of high interest in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. While in custody, Iqbal claimed he suffered both physical and verbal abuse. Upon his release, Iqbal filed a Bivens action against several United States officials, including Ashcroft and Mueller as the alleged architects of a policy to confine individuals based solely on their race, religion, or natural origin, rather than because of any connection with terrorist activity. Ashcroft and Mueller moved to dismiss Iqbal’s claim for failing to state sufficient allegations connecting them to any alleged unconstitutional conduct. Extending the “plausibility” pleading standard devised in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, the Supreme Court held Iqbal’s complaint was inadequate to state a claim for Bivens liability against Ashcroft and Mueller because it did not contain enough nonconclusory factual allegations to suggest plausible entitlement to relief. The Iqbal decision makes clear the “plausibility” pleading standard applies to all federal civil actions, meaning all plaintiffs have to come forward with greater factual specificity in their complaints to survive a motion to dismiss. The Iqbal decision will likely result in fewer claims, meritorious or otherwise, finding redress in federal courts.

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