This Note describes a little-observed ripple effect of the new pleading standard announced in Iqbal, the antiterrorism case whose holding swept broadly and changed the ground rules for considering allegations in so-called 12(b)(6) motions for all civil cases. This Note examines the interplay between the Twombly/Iqbal doctrine and federal courts’ practical approach to subject-matter jurisdiction. Part II describes the background jurisprudence on subject-matter jurisdiction, including the sharp line the Supreme Court has consistently re-drawn between claims lacking merit and those lacking jurisdictional basis, from Bell v. Hood through Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp. The consistent theme of this jurisprudence is that courts should not conflate merits and jurisdictional questions, and that judges should readily activate the court’s jurisdiction in response to a simple allegation in the complaint. Part III then describes the recent change to pleading standards on the merits of a claim. It explains the origins, factual context, and doctrinal bases of the altered pleading standard introduced in Iqbal and Twombly. These rationales do not, in most cases, apply to motions to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. In Part IV, lower-court case law reveals that since 2009, in practice, the Iqbal standard has been interfering with the agenda of Arbaugh, in a way that the Supreme Court did not intend. Federal judges, in their eagerness to apply the novel pleading standard of Iqbal, have neglected the jurisdictional teachings of the Supreme Court in the Arbaugh line of cases. As a result, since Iqbal an erroneous 12(b)(1) standard has propagated rapidly through circuit and lower courts.If the application of Iqbal to jurisdictional pleadings is an error, as this Note maintains and as recent Supreme Court reaffirmations of Arbaugh suggest, it may prove difficult to eradicate. Part V addresses the ineffectiveness of circuit courts and the rules-based system in correcting such mistakes.
Note, Ripple Effects: The Unintended Change to Jurisdictional Pleading Standards After Iqbal, 60 Clev. St. L. Rev. 799 (2012)