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This short essay examines the seemingly contradictory definitions and associations of the word "plausible," which the Supreme Court unexpectedly elevated to a key gatekeeping role for all of federal civil litigation in its rulings altering the pleading standard in Twombly and Iqbal. Justices, judges and commentators have not focused on what "plausible" means, for some good reasons; it carries with it connotations of the "reasonable" and the "fair" but also "superficial," "often specious" and "pretext." I can offer only a plausible defense of the seemingly contradictory meanings of this word deployed to regulate allegations in federal complaints, for which the transparency of its vice is, for better and for worse, its main virtue.

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