Long Awaited Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Go Into Effect

Today, December 1, the long awaited amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure go into effect. The “package” of amendments include rule changes across a number of rules (specifically Rules 1, 4, 16, 26, 30, 31, 33, and 34) and focus on increasing cooperation, achieving proportionality in discovery, and encouraging early case management by judges. A new Rule 37(e) addressing sanctions related to the failure to preserve electronically stored information is also included. The amendments also include changes to Rule 55 to correct an ambiguity and to Rules 4 and 84, which abrogate Rule 84 and the Appendix of Forms.

The most significant changes are to Rule 26. The new Rule 26(b)(1) now specifically incorporates proportionality into the scope of discovery, such that parties may obtain discovery over nonprivileged matters that are relevant and proportional to the needs of the case, considering specifically enumerated factors. The redlined version of the rule changes, including the applicable committee notes, can be found here. The committee notes are an essential guide to the new amendments and are a must read for attorneys and judges alike. The new rules will be accessable here.

The amendments represent the culmination of many years of effort by the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, the Advisory Committee on Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and many others around the country—including IAALS—who have worked in support of these “significant” amendments designed to promote the just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of civil cases. Our joint recommendations with the ACTL Task Force in 2009 called for a lively and informed debate in service of achieving the common goal of a fair and more efficient system of justice, with the optimistic goal of impact through eventual rule revisions. Today we celebrate that impact.

Stay tuned over the next four weeks as I blog about the specific amendments related to cooperation, proportionality, case management, and failure to preserve.