November 3, 2014
In August 2013, the Judicial Advisory Committee on Civil Rules (“the Committee”) published for public comment proposed amendments to several of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Public comments were received and on June 14, 2014, the Committee recommended proposed amendments to Rules 1, 4, 16, 26, 30, 31, 33, 34, 37 and 55, along with the abrogation of Rule 84 and the Appendix of Forms to the Judicial Conference. These amendments were reviewed and approved in turn by the Judicial Conference and are currently pending review with the Supreme Court. If approved by the Supreme Court, they will go into effect December 1, 2015, absent contrary Congressional action.
The vast majority of the proposed amendments which will be considered by the Supreme Court (Rules 1, 4, 16, 26, 30, 31, 33, 34, and 37) were developed to improve the disposition of civil litigation. The amendments are intended to further the Rule 1 mandate of securing “the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding” by reducing the costs and delays of civil litigation and increasing access to the courts.
The Supreme Court will also be considering an amendment to Rule 55 which would clarify an ambiguity in the relationship between Rules 55(c), 54(b), and 60(b) when a default judgment does not dispose of all claims among all parties to an action.
Finally, the Supreme Court will contemplate the abrogation of Rules 84 and the Appendix of Forms.
In a series of posts we will examine each of the proposed changes in more detail, starting with Rule 1.
Rule 1 currently states that the Rules of Civil Procedure “should be construed and administered to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.” The proposed amendment would change the language of Rule 1 to provide that the Rules of Civil Procedure “be construed, administered and employed by the court and the parties to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”
The amendment seeks to foster a spirit of cooperation and leaves no doubt that it is the responsibility of the parties, as well as the courts, to achieve just, speedy and inexpensive resolutions to litigation.
The public comments received on the amendment were receptive to the idea of cooperation but did express some concerns about the proposed change. One such concern was that the language of the amendment might invite attempts to seek sanctions for violations of a duty to cooperate. To avoid such a situation, the committee note was changed to clarify that the amendment does not create a new source of sanctions.