Proposed Changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 2015

The amendments were officially proposed on August 15, 2013. Public commentary elicited since then includes over 2,300 remarks on all sides of the spectrum. The commentary period closed on February 18, 2014.  The Judiciary Conference’s Advisory Committee on Civil Rules first explored amending the rules in May 2010 at a conference held at Duke University School of Law. Twenty-eight changes to Rules were proposed to the Supreme Court as a result.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) have governed federal civil litigation since they were introduced, in an effort to provide uniform procedural rules, as the Rules Enabling Act in 1934. The rules before 1934 consisted of various mixtures of both State and Federal procedure.  Recently proposed changes to the FRCP have sparked much discussion and debate.  The proposed amendments, if approved, would have an effective date of December 1, 2015.

The amendments were officially proposed on August 15, 2013. Public commentary elicited since then includes over 2,300 remarks on all sides of the spectrum. The commentary period closed on February 18, 2014.  The Judiciary Conference’s Advisory Committee on Civil Rules first explored amending the rules in May 2010 at a conference held at Duke University School of Law. Twenty-eight changes to Rules were proposed to the Supreme Court as a result.  Most of the suggested changes concern the Rules governing proportionality, scheduling and privilege.  In order for any of these proposed changes to go into effect, they must first be sent to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court must then send them to Congress by May 1. Congress will have seven months – until December 1- to act on any objections.

Some of the most substantial changes in the rules are targeted at cutting costs and reducing delay from the outset of litigation.  For example, if Congress adopts the amendment to Rule 4(m), a plaintiff’s action may be dismissed if the defendant is not served within 60 days (reduced from 120 days).

Additionally, new limits are proposed that would reduce the number of permissible depositions from ten to five and reduce interrogatories allowed from twenty-five to fifteen.  However, another proposed amendment would increase the number of requests for admissions from none to twenty-five.

Proponents in favor of the amended rules include many large law firms and Fortune 500 companies, in addition to the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies and the Sedona Conference, all of whom acclaimed the integration of a proportionality consideration into the amendments affecting discovery.  Opponents of the proposed amendments, including plaintiffs’ attorneys, trade associations, and those affiliated with the American Association for Justice, argue that the limits on discovery requests may hinder fact-finding litigation.  Those in opposition also assert that the proposed amendment to Rule 37(e) regarding sanctions would make it easier for defendants to escape accountability.

If the proposed amendments do go into effect, they will be the most substantial changes made to the FRCP since 1993.

Click here to read the proposed rules.

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