A Hypothetical to Illustrate the Point
Let’s use a hypothetical to illustrate the point. Pretend that John Ashcroft filed a complaint in federal court alleging that Carol Williams is a partisan liberal hack who deliberately set out to libel him by knowingly misstating the holding of a federal court opinion. If that complaint were dismissed by the trial court under Rule 12(b)(6), the appellate court would have to accept Ashcroft’s allegations as true for purposes of the appeal. A reversal would not be an endorsement of Ashcroft’s allegations, but rather an indication that, assuming Ashcroft’s allegations are true, his complaint states a valid libel claim.
If that happened, would the L.A. Times write a story declaring that a federal court had issued a “scathing opinion” declaring that Carol Williams is a dishonest partisan hack? No. Somehow, I think that the procedural niceties would, all of a sudden, be carefully explained.
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[…] In other words, the court is here clearly saying that the plaintiff has not yet proved his allegations — even though, according to Carol Williams, the court has already declared the case over and Ashcroft guilty. (More illustration of the point here.) […]Patterico’s Pontifications » L.A. Times’s Carol Williams Badly Misstates Holding of Federal Decision Regarding John Ashcroft (e4ab32) — 9/5/2009 @ 12:13 pm