Minnesota Law Review

When Sosa Meets Iqbal: Plausibility Pleading in Human Rights Litigation

Human rights litigation under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) has increased dramatically in the past few decades. Due to actions of a host of players around the world, this struggle for rights and remedies is dependent upon the rules of domestic court systems. Within U.S. civil litigation, two key lines of precedent affect human rights cases: the Supreme Court’s only sustained review of ATS subject-matter jurisdiction in Sosa and its introduction of the plausibility standard of pleading in Twombly-Iqbal. Considering courts’ initial applications of Twombly-Iqbal to motions to dismiss ATS cases, it becomes clear that courts do not consistently apply Sosa to questions of ATS jurisdiction. This confusion leads to two errors. First, courts do not always distinguish between motions challenging subject-matter jurisdiction and those challenging sufficiency of factual pleadings. Second, the conflation of these two types of motions leads some courts to improperly apply the standard of review of the latter (the Twombly-Iqbal plausibility standard) when hearing motions challenging the former (the Sosa stand­ard for ATS subject-matter jurisdiction). The Note argues that courts should distinguish between types of motions and their attendant standards of review and properly apply each in their respective spheres. Based on both legal and policy analysis, the Note concludes that the appropriately limited application of the Twombly-Iqbal plausibility standard should not have major implications for human rights litigation under Sosa.

:: View PDF

De Novo

  • Case Comment: Bhogaita v. Altamonte

    EVERY DOG CAN HAVE HIS DAY IN COURT: THE USE OF ANIMALS AS DEMONSTRATIVE EXHIBITS Kyle R. Kroll, Volume 100, Online Managing Editor In Bhogaita v. Altamonte, the Eleventh Circuit recently decided whether to allow a dog in the courtroom as a demonstrative exhibit.[1] Although the case presented many serious [...]

  • Revisiting Water Bankruptcy

    REVISITING WATER BANKRUPTCY IN CALIFORNIA’S FOURTH YEAR OF DROUGHT Olivia Moe, Volume 100, Managing Editor This spring, as “extreme” to “exceptional” drought stretched across most of California—indicating that a four-year streak of drought was not about to resolve itself[1]—Governor Jerry Brown issued an unprecedented order to reduce potable urban water [...]

  • Defying Auer Deference

    DEFYING AUER DEFERENCE: SKIDMORE AS A SOLUTION TO CONSERVATIVE CONCERNS IN PEREZ v. MORTGAGE BANKERS ASSOCIATION Nicholas R. Bednar, Volume 100, Lead Articles Editor* On March 9, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision in Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association.[1]F The Court overturned the D.C. [...]