Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Proposed Federal Court Rules - Where to Look

Federal court rules change, and you do not want to be the attorney behind the times who doesn't keep up with those changes. Change is good. Really. Especially when the changes are responsive to modern technologies. For example, back in 2013, the Supreme Court proposed changes to Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, i.e., discovery.

Where the changes adopted? If you looked at the latest version of the FRCP, could you tell? Could you tell what the old language looked like?

Good news for researchers: Georgetown has a comprehensive research guide all about federal court rules! Section XVI is titled “Where to Find the Legislative History of Federal Court Rules;" it refers you to the federal court rulemaking process as described here. The guide also provides extensive details about the process. It’s quite complex and interesting.

The Judicial Conference has a Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure (i.e., the Standing Committee), and there are also five advisory committees on the appellate, bankruptcy, civil, criminal, and evidence rules that make recommendations for rule changes to the Standing Committee. The research guide has extensive information on the “legislative” process involved in court rulemaking.

So how do you actually find the documents that comprise the rulemaking process? You can review meeting minutes of advisory committees and reports of the committees on the U.S. Courts website (Records and Archives of the Rules Committees), and though coverage varies by committee, the records go back to the 1930s.

It appears our collection contains various versions of the rules/proposed rules in print and in e-book form. We also have Reports of the Proceedings of the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Courts: (1991 - 1997) in fiche in Cabinet 23, Drawer 1, down in our Microform Room on the first floor of the law library. Also, Hein has a library called “Congress and the Courts;” in that is a collection called “Federal Rules.” That collection includes “Rules of Civil Procedure for the District Courts of the United States: Documentary History 1934-1938,” as well as other titles, though it appears to me the U.S. Courts site is fairly comprehensive or at least would serve as a good finding tool.