Friday, September 30, 2005

E.D.N.Y. Rejects Heightened Pleading Standard in the Face of a Qualified Immunity Defense

In Elmaghraby v. Ashcroft, Slip Copy, 2005 WL 2375202 (E.D.N.Y. Sep 27, 2005) (NO. 04 CV 1409 JG SMG), the Judge Gleeson rejected the contention that a plaintiff pleading a constitutional tort must include specific and "nonconclusory" allegations of personal involvement in order to survive a motion to dismiss where the defense of qualified immunity has been asserted.

The court held that in light of Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506 (2002), which reiterated the notice pleading standard of FRCP Rule 8, the window had been closed on the judicial creation of exceptions to the doctrine. Thus, the court stated:

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff need only provide a statement that gives the defendant 'fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' See Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U .S. 41, 47 (1957)). Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to 'all civil actions, with limited exceptions,' such as Rule 9(b)'s requirement that allegations of fraud and mistake be pleaded with particularity. See id. at 513. Thus, whether the allegations in a complaint are too conclusory to survive a motion to dismiss depends upon whether they meet the permissive standard set forth in Rule 8(a). The expectation that a defendant will assert qualified immunity as a defense does not elevate a plaintiff's pleading requirements."


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