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The little SCOTUS decision that could…block civil claims

While most civil litigators were focused on Supreme Court rulings such as Wyeth v. Levine and Altria Group v. Good last term, another less-noticed ruling by the high court has become the bane of many plaintiffs’ attorneys.

More than 500 times in just the last two, trial courts have cited the case Ashcroft v. Iqbal, a Sept. 11-related opinion that quietly toughened civil pleading standards.

Earlier this month Supreme Court experts Tom Goldstein of Akin Gump and Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic’s Jeffrey Fisher told Lawyers USA that it was the most significant case of the term for trial attorneys. Now other experts, speaking to The New York Times, agree.

“It obviously licenses highly subjective judgments,” Stephen B. Burbank, a University of Pennsylvania Law School civil procedure authority told the Times. “This is a blank check for federal judges to get rid of cases they disfavor.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a dissenter in the case, recently told a group of judges: “In my view, the court’s majority messed up the federal rules” governing civil litigation.

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