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Note: Challenging the Plausibility Standard Under the Rules Enabling Act

By Edwin W. Stockmeyer. Full text here.

One consequence of the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions in Twombly and Iqbal is the reassessment of pleading standards occurring in state appellate courts. Most of these courts have rejected the new plausibility standard in favor of rules designed to allow more claims to proceed to discovery. Thus, although pleading practices have traditionally remained uniform between federal and state courts, a new disuniformity and conflict of law is beginning to emerge.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s most recent decision attempting to interpret the Rules Enabling Act—the statute authorizing federal procedural rules to displace their state counterparts in diversity cases—resulted in competing approaches to determining the validity of federal rules of procedure. While the Court’s plurality opinion confers upon enacted rules almost de facto validity, a majority of the Court rejected this analysis. Justice Stevens’s concurring opinion, on the other hand, interprets the Rules Enabling Act as requiring federal courts to assess a procedural rule’s validity by measuring its effects on state substantive law.

These recent developments in pleading practice and the Erie doctrine leave room for plaintiffs who have had their claims removed to federal court to argue that the sufficiency of their complaints should be determined under state rather than federal pleading rules. Pleading standards—especially those recently analyzed by state appellate courts—are uniquely tied to the scope and protections of substantive law. Hence, this Note argues that where a state pleading standard is more lenient than its federal counterpart, application of the new federal plausibility pleading standard violates the terms of the Rules Enabling Act.