Legal Memorandum: Reconsideration of a Dismissal Order

Issue: In what circumstances in a civil rights case should a court reconsider its order dismissing a plaintiff’s claims?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Order dismissing claims; Reconsideration
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 534 U.S. 506; 355 U.S. 41; 38 F.3d 1380; 416 U.S. 232; 960 F. Supp. 925
Cited Statutes: Rule 12(b)(6); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)
Date: 08/01/2006


A complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff’s claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."  Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)).  The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow simple pleadings and "rel[y] on liberal discovery rules and summary judgment motions to define disputed facts and issues and to dispose of unmeritorious claims."  Id. at 512.  These liberal pleading rules apply with particular stringency to complaints of civil rights violations.  Thus, unless it is beyond doubt that a plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his or her claims, a complaint may not be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6).  Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46.

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the complaint must be construed liberally and all factual allegations must be taken as true.  Manns v. Leather Shop, Inc., 960 F. Supp. 925, 927 (D.V.I. 1997).  The court must draw all fair inferences in the plaintiff’s favor.  Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 775 (3d Cir. 1989).  Accord Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384  (3d Cir. 1993).  There need be only “a short and plain statement” of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.  Manns, 960 F. Supp. at 928 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)).  "The issue is not whether a plaintiff […]

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