Volume 98, Number 4

October 2023

Institutional Facts: Responding to Twombly and Iqbal in the District Courts

Benjamin Shand

More than a decade ago, the Supreme Court discarded its old notice pleading standard and replaced it with a “plausibility” standard in the landmark cases Bell Atlantic v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal. A deluge of commentary followed, much of it critical of either the perceived informational imbalance that the standard created or the broad discretion that the decisions were understood to grant to district court judges. This Note identifies a pattern that appears to be emerging in the lower courts in which parties can satisfy their pleading burden by relying in part on “institutional facts”—that is, findings made by competent entities that implicate the factual allegations in the complaint. This Note argues that, as a matter of doctrine, this practice has yet to be recognized, but it should be applauded and encouraged as both intuitive and judicially tractable.