The Iqbal decision confirms the breakdown of contemporary American civil procedure. We know what civil procedure should do, and we know that our civil procedure is not doing it. Civil procedure should facilitate determining rights according to law. It should help courts and parties apply law to facts accurately, fairly, expeditiously and efficiently. This article reflects on three historic American system failures and reports a foreign success story.
Pleadings can help courts do what we know courts should do: decide case on the merits, accurately, fairly, expeditiously and efficiently. Pleadings facilitate a day in court when focused on deciding according to law. Pleadings are, however, only part of the process of determining rights and of applying law to facts. They cannot do it all. Their utility is limited by the interdependent nature of determining law and finding facts to apply law to facts.
The United States has had three principal systems of civil procedure; all three have failed. The United States has used three principal forms of pleading - common law pleading, fact pleading, and notice pleading; all three have proven in-adequate. None has achieved both accuracy and expedition; none has managed both fairness and efficiency. Although wildly different in what they have required of pleading, all three systems of civil procedure have shared common flaws: they have expected too much of lawyers and not enough of judges. They have allowed issue deciding to substitute for law applying.
Since 1877 Germany has had only one system of civil procedure; that system has worked well. It has stood the test of time. Its unchallenged and unchanged basic principle is that parties provide facts and courts apply law. Da mihi factum, dabo tibi jus. Parties and courts cooperate. Pleading is only the beginning of that cooperation. Pleading leads directly to a day in court. Pleading directs the court down the path to a decision according to law.
Pleading and Access to Civil Procedure: Historical and Comparative Reflections on Iqbal, a Day in Court and a Decision According to Law, 114 Penn St. L. Rev. 1257 (2010)