Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Extraneous material is not outside the pleadings, for purposes of Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) or 12(c), when the material is integral to complaint and relied upon by the plaintiff in framing the complaint. A matter is deemed integral to the complaint when the complaint relies heavily upon its terms and effect. Typically, an integral matter is a contract, agreement, or other document essential to the litigation. Hearing testimony elicited by the trial judge after litigation has already begun is not the type of material that ordinarily has the potential to be a matter integral to a plaintiff's complaint.
On January 8, 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at a political rally for Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona ("the Loughner shooting"), killing six people and injuring thirteen others. Representative Giffords was seriously wounded in the attack. Shortly before the tragic attack, Sarah Palin's political action committee ("SarahPAC") had circulated a map that superimposed the image of a crosshairs target over certain Democratic congressional districts (evoking, in the view of many, images of violence). Giffords' district was among those targeted by the SarahPAC crosshairs map. Six years later, on June 14, 2017, another political shooting occurred when James Hodgkinson opened fire in Alexandria, Virginia at a practice for a congressional baseball game. He seriously injured four people, including Republican Congressman Steve Scalise ("the Hodgkinson shooting"). That same evening, the Times, under the Editorial Board's byline, published an editorial entitled "America's Lethal Politics" ("the editorial") in response to the shooting. The editorial argued that these two political shootings evidenced the "vicious" nature of American politics. Reflecting on the Loughner shooting and the SarahPAC crosshairs map, the editorial claimed that the "link to political incitement was clear," and noted that Palin's political action committee had "circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs," suggesting that the congressmembers themselves had been pictured on the map. In the next paragraph, the editorial referenced the Hodgkinson shooting that had happened that day: "Though there's no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack, liberals should of course hold themselves to the same standard of decency that they ask of the right." The Times faced an immediate backlash for publishing the editorial. Within a day, it had changed the editorial and issued a correction. The Times removed the two phrases suggesting a link between Palin and the Loughner shooting. Twelve days after the editorial was published Palin sued the Times in federal court. She alleged one count of defamation under New York law. Thereafter, the Times moved to dismiss Palin's complaint for failure to state a claim. The district court determined that any amendment would be futile and dismissed Palin's complaint with prejudice. Later, Palin asked the district court to reconsider its decision that the dismissal was with prejudice and included a Proposed Amended Complaint with her motion. The district court denied the motion for reconsideration and leave to replead. Palin appealed.
Did the district court err in dismissing Palin’s defamation claim against Times for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)?
The court held that the district court erred in dismissing Palin’s defamation claim against Times for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) because it relied on evidence adduced at a Fed. R. Civ. P. 43(c) hearing without converting the motion to one for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; the hearing testimony could not have been integral to the complaint; and even if the motion had been properly converted with notice, the district court impermissibly relied on credibility determinations. The proposed amended complaint sufficiently stated a claim where the allegations gave rise to a plausible inference that the editor was recklessly disregarding the truth when he published the editorial, strengthened by the allegation that the editor had reason to be personally biased.