Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the Court.
We granted certiorari to decide whether a federal court may apply a "heightened pleading standard"—more stringent than the usual pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure—in civil rights cases alleging municipal liability under Rev. Stat. § 1979, 42 U. S. C. § 1983. We hold it may not.
We review here a decision granting a motion to dismiss, and therefore must accept as true all the factual allegations in the complaint. See United States v. Gaubert, 499 U.S. 315, 327 (1991). This action arose out of two separate incidents involving the execution of search warrants by local law
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas ordered the complaints dismissed because they failed to meet the "heightened pleading standard" required by the decisional law of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. 755 F.Supp. 726 (1991). The Fifth Circuit, in turn, affirmed the judgment of dismissal, 954 F.2d 1054 (1992), and we granted certiorari, 505 U.S. 1203 (1992), to resolve a conflict among the Courts of Appeals concerning the applicability of a heightened pleading standard to § 1983 actions alleging municipal liability. Cf., e. g., Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 624 (CA9 1988) ("[A] claim of municipal liability under section 1983 is sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss even if the claim is based on nothing more than a bare allegation that the individual officers' conduct conformed to official policy, custom, or practice") (internal quotation marks omitted). We now reverse.
Respondents seek to defend the Fifth Circuit's application of a more rigorous pleading standard on two grounds.
This argument wrongly equates freedom from liability with immunity from suit. To be sure, we reaffirmed in Monell that "a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory." 436 U. S., at 691. But, contrary to respondents' assertions, this protection against liability does not encompass immunity from suit. Indeed, this argument is flatly contradicted by Monell and our later decisions involving municipal liability under § 1983. In Monell, we overruled Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167 (1961), insofar as it held that local governments were wholly immune from suit under § 1983, though we did reserve decision on whether municipalities are entitled to some form of limited immunity. 436 U. S., at 701. Yet, when we took that issue up again in Owen v. City of Independence, 445 U.S. 622, 650 (1980), we rejected a claim that municipalities should be afforded qualified immunity, much like that afforded individual officials, based on the good faith of their agents. These decisions make it quite clear that, unlike various government officials, municipalities do not enjoy immunity from suit—either absolute or qualified—under § 1983. In short, a municipality can be sued under § 1983, but it cannot be held liable unless a municipal policy or custom caused the constitutional injury. We thus have no occasion to consider
Second, respondents contend that the Fifth Circuit's heightened pleading standard is not really that at all. See Brief for Respondents Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit et al. 9-10 ("[T]he Fifth Circuit's so-called `heightened' pleading requirement is a misnomer"). According to respondents, the degree of factual specificity required of a complaint by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure varies according to the complexity of the underlying substantive law. To establish municipal liability under § 1983, respondents argue, a plaintiff must do more than plead a single instance of misconduct. This requirement, respondents insist, is consistent with a plaintiff's Rule 11 obligation to make a reasonable prefiling inquiry into the facts.
But examination of the Fifth Circuit's decision in this case makes it quite evident that the "heightened pleading standard" is just what it purports to be: a more demanding rule for pleading a complaint under § 1983 than for pleading other kinds of claims for relief. See 954 F. 2d, at 1057-1058. This rule was adopted by the Fifth Circuit in Elliott v. Perez, 751 F.2d 1472 (1985), and described in this language:
In later cases, the Fifth Circuit extended this rule to complaints against municipal corporations asserting liability under § 1983. See, e. g., Palmer v. San Antonio, 810 F.2d 514 (1987).
Rule 9(b) does impose a particularity requirement in two specific instances. It provides that "[i]n all averments of fraud or mistake, the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake shall be stated with particularity." Thus, the Federal Rules do address in Rule 9(b) the question of the need for greater particularity in pleading certain actions, but do not include among the enumerated actions any reference to complaints alleging municipal liability under § 1983. Expressio unius est exclusio alterius.
The phenomenon of litigation against municipal corporations based on claimed constitutional violations by their employees dates from our decision in Monell, supra, where we for the first time construed § 1983 to allow such municipal liability. Perhaps if Rules 8 and 9 were rewritten today, claims against municipalities under § 1983 might be subjected to the added specificity requirement of Rule 9(b). But that is a result which must be obtained by the process of amending the Federal Rules, and not by judicial interpretation. In the absence of such an amendment, federal courts and litigants must rely on summary judgment and control of discovery
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.