Eleventh Circuit's Heightened Pleading Rule Violates Separation of Powers Principles

Article I of the Constitution delegates the Congress the power "[t]o constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court []."  This Article I power includes the power to draft rules of procedure.  Congress has enacted rules of procedure in federal courts, namely the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff need merely allege a "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief []."  Nevertheless, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has enacted a heightened-pleading rule in Section 1983 cases:

However, this Circuit has tightened the application of Rule 8 in section 1983 cases where qualified immunity is at issue, like this one. In such cases, the “heightened pleading standard” applies and “[s]ome factual detail in the pleadingsis necessary.” GJR Invs., Inc. v. County of Escambia, Fla., 132 F.3d 1359, 1367(11th Cir. 1998); see also Danley v. Allen, 540 F.3d 1298, 1314 (11th Cir. 2008) (“Under the heightened pleading requirement, the relevant facts must be allegedwith some specificity.”) (internal quotation omitted). The purpose of the heightened pleading standard is for the plaintiff to provide facts with “sufficient detail for Defendants to understand what alleged rights were violated . . . and which of their actions allegedly violated those rights,” as well as “for the court to determine whether those facts indeed set out a violation of rights and whether those rights were clearly established when these incidents occurred.” Amnesty Int’l, USA v. Battle, 559 F.3d 1170, 1180 (11th Cir. 2009).
Harper v. Lawrence County, No. 09-10226, slip op. at *8-9 (11th Cir. Oct. 7, 2009) (here). Those are all noble policy goals.  Perhaps Congress should rewrite the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to enact the Eleventh Circuit's policy goals.

However, Congress disagrees with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  Congress requires notice pleading in Section 1983 cases.  Pleading standards are matter of Article I - not Article III - authority.

The Eleventh Circuit has abrogated Congress' Article I powers.  It has violated separation of powers principles.  It has created a new rule that has no basis in the law.  "The courts must declare the sense of the law; and if they should be disposed to exercise WILL instead of JUDGMENT, the consequence would equally be the substitution of their pleasure to that of the legislative body."  The Federalist No. 79 (Alexander Hamilton) (concerning the judiciary).

The Eleventh Circuit should reverse its unconstitutional line of cases - cases where impose upon litigants requirements that Congress rejected.  Otherwise the Supreme Court should review the Eleventh Circuit's rulings.  Judge-made heightened pleading standards are unconstitutional, as they are an abrogation of Congress' Article I powers.



5:59 PM

Simply awesome. It ssometimes seems as if the judges do not know the law as well as we expect.