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Ashcroft v. Iqbal

Supreme Court of the United States

December 10, 2008, Argued; May 18, 2009, Decided

No. 07-1015

Opinion

 [*666]  [**1942]  Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.

Javaid Iqbal (hereinafter respondent) is a citizen of Pakistan and a Muslim. In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks he was arrested in the United States on criminal charges and detained by federal officials. Respondent claims he was deprived of various constitutional protections while in federal custody. To redress the alleged deprivations, respondent filed a complaint against numerous federal officials, including John Ashcroft, the former  [****9] Attorney General of the United States, and Robert Mueller, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Ashcroft and Mueller are the petitioners in the case now before us. As to these two petitioners, the complaint alleges that they adopted an unconstitutional policy that subjected respondent to harsh conditions of confinement on account of his race, religion, or national origin.

In the District Court petitioners raised the defense of qualified immunity and moved to dismiss the suit, contending the complaint was not sufficient to state a claim against them. The District Court denied the motion to dismiss, concluding the complaint was sufficient to state a claim despite petitioners' official status at the times in question. Petitioners brought an interlocutory appeal in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The court, without discussion, assumed it had jurisdiction over the order denying the motion to dismiss; and it affirmed the District Court's decision.

Respondent's account of his prison ordeal could, if proved, demonstrate unconstitutional misconduct by some governmental actors. But the allegations and pleadings with respect to these actors are not before us here.  [****10] This case instead turns on a narrower question: Did respondent, as the plaintiff in the District Court, [**1943]  plead factual matter that, if taken as true, states a claim that petitioners deprived him of his clearly established constitutional rights. We hold respondent's pleadings are insufficient.

 [*667]  I

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556 U.S. 662 *; 129 S. Ct. 1937 **; 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 ***; 2009 U.S. LEXIS 3472 ****; 77 U.S.L.W. 4387; 2009-2 Trade Cas. (CCH) P76,785; 73 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 837; 21 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 853

JOHN D. ASHCROFT, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, et al., Petitioners v. JAVAID IQBAL et al.

Subsequent History: On remand at, Remanded by Iqbal v. Ashcroft, 574 F.3d 820, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 16571 (2d Cir., July 28, 2009)

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.

Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 13911 (2d Cir. N.Y., 2007)

Disposition: 490 F.3d 143, reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

allegations, supervisory, subordinate, discriminatory, qualified immunity, petitioners', detainees, pleadings, motion to dismiss, discovery, court of appeals, factual allegations, national origin, religion, confinement, condoned, district court, conclusory, arrested, high interest, conspiracy, terrorist, attacks, conditions, complaint alleges, designated, detention, suspected, deliberate indifference, restrictive conditions

Civil Procedure, Jurisdiction, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, General Overview, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, Collateral Order Doctrine, Final Judgment Rule, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Immunity From Liability, Federal Officials, Implied Causes of Action, Respondeat Superior Distinguished, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Failure to State Claim, Pleadings, Complaints, Requirements for Complaint, Heightened Pleading Requirements