U.S. Supreme Court

Souter Dissent Backs ‘Little Green Men’ Standard for Inadequate Pleadings


Justice David H. Souter isn’t known for zinger quotes in his opinions. But his dissent yesterday to a decision tossing a jailed Muslim’s complaint against two government officials contained some colorful language about space aliens—little green ones, to be exact.

The U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion held that Pakistani citizen Javaid Iqbal could not pursue his lawsuit against two former officials—Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller—because his complaint failed to allege specific facts that they acted with a discriminatory purpose, the New York Times reports.

Iqbal had claimed he was beaten by prison guards when he was held in New York after the attacks for possessing fraudulent identification documents. He alleged he was held under policies focused on Arab Muslim men and requiring harsh treatment.

Souter’s dissent, joined by three other justices, said the majority pleading requirements were too strict, according to the Times and The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. He argued that a plaintiff’s claim need only be plausible to survive a dismissal motion.

“The sole exception to this rule lies with allegations that are sufficiently fantastic to defy reality as we know it: claims about little green men, or the plaintiff’s recent trip to Pluto, or experiences in time travel,” Souter wrote. “That is not what we have here.”

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