Justice Denied: SCOTUS Rulings Block Americans’ Access to Courts

Text Size

For Immediate Release: October 27, 2009

Contact: Ray De Lorenzi,
202-965-3500, ext. 8369

Hearing today on Ashcroft v. Iqbal decision shows yet another avenue for corporations to evade accountability

Washington, DC - A broad coalition of civil rights, consumer, legal and employment groups are urging Congress to restore standards required to file court cases, as two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions suddenly reversed a 50-year-old federal court rule by erecting troubling and unreasonable barriers for Americans to receive justice.

A hearing today in the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties will explain how the Bell Atlantic v. Twombly (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal (2009) cases further stack the deck against Americans and provide wrongdoers with broad immunity.

The Twombly and Iqbal decisions irrationally raised the bar for Americans to bring employment, discrimination and other civil cases.  Before these Supreme Court decisions, individuals could file a case by submitting a short and plain statement – called a complaint.  With these vague and subjective new legal pleading standards, cases are being dismissed even before the claimant can develop facts through discovery.  This effectively requires people to know more information than they possibly could have access to.

Since many cases are proven because of documents – such as personnel files and internal company memos – uncovered in discovery, these new standards allow negligent corporations to escape accountability while weakening Americans’ basic legal protections.

“Individuals already face an uphill battle when pursuing justice through the legal system,” said American Association for Justice President Anthony Tarricone.  “With these two decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court has made the boulder heavier and the mountain higher for Americans who want a fair chance to hold wrongdoers accountable.  We urge Congress to act; otherwise, this will give broad immunity to negligent corporations, and leave many injured people without recourse.”

A bill sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has already been introduced in the U.S. Senate (S. 1504) to return these pleading standards to their prior precedent – established in 1957 by Conley v. Gibson.  A wide range of groups support the effort to restore legal standards, including:  Alliance for Justice, American Antitrust Institute, American Civil Liberties Union, The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Center for Justice & Democracy, Christian Trial Lawyer’s Association, Committee to Support the Antitrust Laws, Community Catalyst, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Earthjustice, Environment America, Essential Information, The Impact Fund, La Raza Centro Legal, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Association of Shareholder and Consumer Attorneys, National Consumer Law Center, National Consumers League, National Council of La Raza, National Crime Victims Bar Association, National Employment Lawyers Association, National Senior Citizens Law Center, National Whistleblowers Center, National Women’s Law Center, Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Southern Poverty Law Center, Taxpayers Against Fraud, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

The hearing will be held today at 2:30pm in 2237 Rayburn.

As the world's largest trial bar, the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) works to make sure people have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others—even when it means taking on the most powerful corporations. Visit http://www.justice.org/newsroom.

The American Association for Justice
777 6th Street, NW, Ste 200 • Washington, DC  20001 • 800.424.2725 or 202.965.3500

© 2014 AAJ