In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the U.S. Supreme Court held that in order to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In so doing, the Court described as “best forgotten” and “incomplete” (see id. at 563) the less stringent standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, with which federal courts have grappled since 1957 and which provided that a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim “unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Subsequently, the Court issued Ashcroft v. Iqbal, which confirmed and made more exacting the “plausibility” standard set forth in Twombly. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009). Now, pending federal legislation seeks to undo the holdings of Twombly and Iqbal by requiring federal courts to return to the Conley standard when confronting motions to dismiss.
Twombly and Iqbal marked a significant change in the way federal courts evaluate motions to dismiss made under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). In Twombly, the Court held that to state a “plausible” claim for relief for an alleged Sherman Act violation, the complaint must plead sufficient factual allegations that enable a court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct asserted in the complaint. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556; see also Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. This contrasts with a “literal” reading of the “no set of facts” approach taken in Conley, under which a conclusory complaint could survive a motion to dismiss “whenever the pleadings left open the possibility” that the plaintiff might subsequently establish some set of facts to support recovery. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561. In Iqbal, the Court confirmed that Twombly‘s pleading standard, though issued in the antitrust context, was in fact predicated on a general interpretation of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 and as such Twombly “expounded the pleading standard for ‘all civil actions.’” Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1953 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 1). Iqbal further explained that, after Twombly, when the facts alleged “do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct,” the complaint has not shown “‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)).
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