The 2015 Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

Effective Dec. 1, 2015, new amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) came into force.  The Civil Rules affected are Rule 1, 4, 16, 26, 30, 31, 33, 34, 37 and 55.  Rule 84 and the Appendix of Forms were eliminated entirely.

The rule changes are the product of five years of study and deliberation beginning with the 2010 Duke Conference.  The symposium found that civil litigation has become too expensive, time-consuming, and contentious, thereby often inhibiting effective access to the courts.  It was agreed that the disposition of civil actions could be improved.

To address these problems, work began on procedural reforms that that would: (1) encourage greater cooperation among counsel; (2) focus discovery on what is truly necessary to resolve the case; (3) engage judges in early and active case management; and (4) address serious new problems associated with vast amounts of electronically stored information.  In 2013, the proposed amendments (Duke Rules Package) were released for public comment, and public hearings were held.  During the next two years, the proposed rules received further scrutiny from the Standing Committee on Civil Rules, the Judicial Conference, and the Supreme Court, before being transmitted to Congress.

What follows is a brief summary of the rule changes:

Rule 1 - directs that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “should be construed, administered, and employed by the court and the parties to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”

Rule 4 and 16 - time limit for service and time for judge to issue scheduling order have been reduced from 120 to 90 days to reduce delay at the beginning of litigation.

Rule 26 - updates the objective originally outlined in the 1983 Amendments to deal with the problem of overdiscovery by granting the court greater authority to limit the scope of discovery.  However, a judge no longer has the discretion to permit "subject matter" discovery.

Rule 30, 31, and 33 - concerning depositions and interrogatories are amended "to reflect the recognition of proportionality in Rule 26(b)(1)."

Rule 34 - several amendments are "aimed at reducing the potential to impose unreasonable burdens by objections to requests to produce" as noted in the Committee Note.

Rule 37-addresses the issues of failing to preserve electronically stored information, and the measures the court may take when a finding is made that such information should have been preserved.  The Advisory Committee has included extensive guidance in the Committee Note regarding these issues.

Rule 55 - clarifies that only in the case of a final default judgment can Rule 60(b) apply.

Rule 84 and the Appendix of Forms - are abrogated.  Many of the forms were out of date, and there are other sources for forms, many of them online, including the United States Courts.

The complete updated Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as, a link to a "redline version" of the the amendments and the Committee Notes may be found on the Rules & Policies webpage of the United State Courts.

The outcomes envisioned by the 2015 amendments which were drafted "to address the most serious impediments to just, speedy, and efficient resolution of civil disputes" are so important that Chief Justice John Roberts devoted his entire 2015 annual report to the new rule changes.  The full report may be viewed by going to the Chief Justice's Year-End Reports on the Federal Judiciary webpage.

Finally, the library has resources such as the crucial Moore's Federal Practice (3rd ed.) set to help you understand, keep up-to-date, and advance your research in the area of the Federal Rules.  This particular title is available online via Lexis Advance, and in print on the index tables in the Quarles and Brady Reading Room, 5th Floor East.  Attending this set is a pamphlet entitled The 2015 Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which provides a comprehensive analysis of the rule changes.

Submitted by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian on January 19, 2016

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