The Champion

July 2010 , Page 28 

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Iqbal for the Accused? A Civil Rationale for Dismissing Conclusory Criminal Indictments

By Robert L. Weinberg

In a leading case on the sufficiency of federal indictments, the U.S. Supreme Court noted:

"[A]n indictment parroting the language of a federal criminal statute is often sufficient. …" United States v. Resendiz-Ponce1 

Resendiz-Poncz, an 8-1 decision (authored by Justice Stevens) handed down in January 2007, also reaffirmed United States v. Debrow2 — the Court’s initial decision construing Rule 7(c)(1) of the then-newly adopted Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. In Debrow, the Court held that an indictment is sufficient if it tracks the language of the charging statute “which embodies all the elements of the crime.”3  


Four months after Resendiz-Ponce reaffirmed the rule that a criminal indictment is ordinarily sufficient if it merely tracks the language of the criminal statute, the Supreme Court (over the dissent of Justice Stevens) applied a stricter pleading standard — under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure — to a civil complaint that tracked the language

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