Trial by Jury or Trial by Motion? Summary Judgment, Iqbal, and Employment Discrimination

Trial by Jury or Trial by Motion? Summary Judgment, Iqbal, and Employment Discrimination


April 23, 2012 at New York Law School.

Recordings of the panel and keynote remarks are available under “Program.”  Speaker presentations and materials are available under “CLE Materials.”  Photos from the event are available here.

The New York Law School Law Review and The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute For Law & Policy (“The Institute”) are pleased to present Trial by Jury or Trial by Motion? Summary Judgment, Iqbal and Employment Discrimination, a symposium that will examine the high failure rates of plaintiffs on pre- and post-trial motions in employment discrimination cases and explore potential strategies to reverse this growing trend.

The reality today is that motions for dismissal and for summary judgment are filed in nearly every case. Originally conceived as an efficient means to help plaintiffs in debt collection cases, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 allowed judges to resolve quickly claims where material facts were not genuinely in dispute and the defendant could not mount a defense. Today, the drafters of Rule 56 would not recognize its expanded application, particularly in employment cases.

Encouraging this movement towards pre-trial adjudication of employment discrimination cases are the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, through which the Supreme Court appeared to raise the quantum of facts that a plaintiff must plead to avoid successfully a motion to dismiss. As summary judgment is the accepted mechanism for evaluating the factual sufficiency of complaints, these rulings raise interesting questions as to whether the Court has blurred the line between motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment.

The increasing prevalence of pre- and post-trial dispositive motions has had a demonstrably unique effect in cases alleging violations of employment discrimination laws. A substantial and growing body of evidence, both empirical and anecdotal, shows that civil rights cases, and in particular those alleging employment discrimination, are disproportionately susceptible to dismissal before trial as well as to unfavorable JNOV motions after trial.

Selected papers presented at the conference have been published in the New York Law School Law Review.  To view articles from this issue, click here.