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Second Circuit Remands Iqbal v. Ashcroft for Possible Amendment

On July 28, 2009, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals remanded Iqbal v. Ashcroft to the district court for a determination of whether Iqbal should be granted leave to amend his complaint.

Javaid Iqbal, a Muslim Pakistani, and Ehad Elmaghraby, a Muslim Egyptian, were arrested in New York City in a round up of foreigners who were illegally in the country that followed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. They alleged isolation and abusive treatment in a civil rights action filed in federal district court against various government officials. After the defendants' motions to dismiss were denied, Elmaghraby settled his part of the suit for $300,000.

The defendants filed motions to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The district court partially granted and partially denied the motions. The defendants appealed. The Second Circuit upheld the district court's rulings. The defendants filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court that was granted. The Supreme Court held that Iqbal failed to plead sufficient facts to state a claim for purposeful discrimination and remanded the case to the Second Circuit for it to determine whether Iqbal could seek leave of the district court to amend his complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). [See: PLN, July 2009, p. 18].

In this opinion, the Second Circuit held that it is customary to allow the district court to determine whether leave to amend a complaint should be granted and then review that determination under an abuse-of-discretion standard. It saw no reason to depart from that practice here. However, it did note that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) states "that the court should freely give leave when justice so requires." Therefore, the Second Circuit remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. See: Iqbal v. Ashcroft, 574 F.3d 820 (2nd Cir. 2009).

The case settled on remand for an undisclosed amount in October 2009. See: Elmaghraby, et al., v. Ashcroft, et al., USDC, E.D.N.Y, No. 04-cv-1809 (JG) (SMG).

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Related legal case

Iqbal v. Ashcroft

574 F.3d 820, *; 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 16571, **

JAVAID IQBAL, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JOHN ASHCROFT, former Attorney General of the United States, and ROBERT MUELLER, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Defendants-Appellants. * * The Clerk of Court is directed to amend the official caption in this case and the captions of the other cases that were previously consolidated with No. 05-6352 to conform to the unconsolidation order filed today.

Docket No. 05-6352-cv.


574 F.3d 820; 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 16571

May 18, 2009, Remanded
July 28, 2009, Decided

SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: As Corrected October 27, 2009.

On remand from the Supreme Court of the United States with instruction to "decide in the first instance whether to remand to the District Court so that respondent can seek leave to amend his deficient complaint,"
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1954, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868, 2009 U.S. LEXIS 3472 (U.S., 2009), we remand for the District Court to decide whether leave to amend should be granted.


COUNSEL: Gregory G. Garre, Deputy Solicitor Gen., Dept. of Justice, Wash., D.C. (Peter D. Keisler, Asst. Atty. Gen., Gregory G. Katsas, Deputy Asst. Atty. Gen., Kannon K. Shanmugam, Asst. to the Solicitor Gen., Barbara L. Herwig, Robert M. Loeb, Dept. of Justice, Wash., D.C.; Dennis C. Barghaan, Richard W. Sponseller, Larry Lee Gregg, Asst. U.S. Attys., Alexandria, VA.; R. Craig Lawrence, Asst. U.S. Atty., Wash., D.C., on the brief), for Defendants-Appellants, Ashcroft and Mueller.

Alexander A. Reinert, New York, N.Y. (Keith M. Donoghue, Elizabeth L. Koob, Joan Magoolaghan, Koob & Magoolaghan, New York, N.Y.; Haeyoung Yoon, Urban Justice Center, New York, N.Y.; Mamoni Bhattacharyya, David Ball, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, New York, N.Y., on the brief), for Plaintiff-Appellee, Iqbal.

(Anil Kalhan, New York, N.Y., for amici curiae Civil Rights Organizations [**2] in support of Plaintiff-Appellee.)

(Michael J. Wishnie, New York, N.Y., for amici curiae Individuals and Religious Organizations in support of Plaintiff-Appellee.)

JUDGES: Before: NEWMAN, CABRANES, and SACK, Circuit Judges.


[*821] PER CURIAM:

On May 18, 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed and remanded a June 14, 2007 judgment of this Court, in [*822] which we affirmed in part and reversed in part a September 27, 2005 Order of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York (John Gleeson, Judge). See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1954, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009); Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 177 (2d Cir. 2007); Elmaghraby v. Ashcroft, No. 04 CV 1409, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21434, 2005 WL 2375202 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 27, 2005). The Supreme Court held that, under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, plaintiff Javaid Iqbal's complaint "has not `nudged his claims' of invidious discrimination `across the line from conceivable to plausible."' Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1951 (brackets omitted) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007)). The Supreme Court further instructed that, on remand, "[t]he Court of Appeals should decide in the first instance whether to remand to [**3] the District Court so that respondent can seek leave to amend his deficient complaint." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1954. We now consider that question.

Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that, soon after filing an initial pleading, "a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave," but that "[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). In the ordinary course, we are accustomed to reviewing a district court's decision whether to grant or deny leave to amend, rather than making that decision for ourselves in the first instance, and we apply a deferential, "abuse of discretion" standard of review to the district court's informed discretion. See, e.g.,McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 200 (2d Cir. 2007) ("[I]t is within the sound discretion of the district court to grant or deny leave to amend. A district court has discretion to deny leave for good reason, including futility, bad faith, undue delay, or undue prejudice to the opposing party." (citations omitted)); cf. Sims v. Blot, 534 F.3d 117, 132 (2d Cir. 2008) ("A district court has abused its [**4] discretion if it based its ruling on an erroneous view of the law or on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence, or rendered a decision that cannot be located within the range of permissible decisions." (citation, alteration, and internal quotation marks omitted)). We see no need to depart from the ordinary course in the instant case. Accordingly, we remand the cause to the District Court for further proceedings in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868


We REMAND the cause for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.