The Jury (or More Accurately the Judge) Is Still Out for Civil Rights and Employment Cases Post-Iqbal

Suzette M. Malveaux, The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law


Five years after Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and three years after Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the question regarding the impact these seminal Supreme Court decisions are having on the vitality of employment discrimination and other civil rights cases remains. This question was posed at a symposium aptly titled Trial by Jury or Trial by Motion? Summary Judgment, Iqbal, and Employment Discrimination, sponsored by the New York Law School Law Review and The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute for Law & Policy held in April 2012.

This question is important because if potentially meritorious civil rights and employment discrimination cases are dismissed prematurely, law enforcement and deterrence will be sacrificed for expediency and efficiency. The answer to this question is that we don't know yet. The jury is still out. Or, more accurately, the judge is still out since most cases currently never get to a jury. Trial by motion has become standard operating procedure for modern civil litigation, with the point of dismissal far earlier in the litigation cycle.