Fed. Rules of Civil Procedure, Changes

Changes In The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

The Federal and Florida Rules of Civil Procedure have been changed in many significant ways. The revisions are important and should be noted. The purpose of this article is to summarize the amendments and revisions so that the trial practitioner may become familiar with them. There have been significant changes to Rules 5, 15, 24, 35, 41, 44, 45, 47, 48, 50, 52, 53, 63, 72, and 77 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Rule 5

Expressly forbids the Clerk of the Court from refusing to accept papers for filing on the grounds that they are not in strict compliance with form. Anyone who has tried to file something with the clerk’s office with time about to expire, only to find out that the format was wrong and that the document could not be filed on a timely basis, will now find relief because of this Rule. Rule 5 also allows the practitioner to file documents by facsimile.

Rule 15

Allows the relation back of amendments to pleadings. It also prevents an intended defendant who has been misnamed in the complaint from avoiding liability on the basis that the defendant’s name was not correctly stated in the complaint before the statute of limitations ran. Thus, if an intended defendant has notice of the action within 120 days of its filing, and knows that except for the mistake in the name, the action was intended to be brought against the defendant, then an amendment allowing the name of the defendant to be corrected will relate back to the date of the original pleading.

Rule 24

Requires a party challenging the constitutionality of any state’s statute affecting public interest to bring it to the Court’s attention. The Court must then notify the relevant State Attorney General of the challenge to permit the State to defend the action.

Rule 35

Physical and mental examinations are no longer limited to examinations by physicians and psychologists. The physical and mental examinations may be conducted by any qualified licensed or certified examiner.

Rule 41

Rule 41(b) has been replaced for the most part by new Rule 52(c). A defendant may move for dismissal of an action or of any claim against the defendant if the plaintiff fails to prosecute the case or to comply with these rules or any order of the court. Unless the court in its order for dismissal otherwise specifies, a dismissal under this division and any dismissal not provided for in this Rule, other than the dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, for improper venue, or for failure to join a party under Rule 19, operates as an adjudication upon the merits.

Rule 44

Has been revised to eliminate any requirement for a final certification of authenticity relating to official records of a foreign country if the United States has entered into a treaty with that country. This allows the parties to use the Hague Convention’s Rules as a mean of certifying the records of countries that have signed on to the Hague Convention’s Agreement.

Rule 45

Requires a non-party to produce documents, “things” and even submit to an inspection of premises. It minimizes the need for a deposition duces tecum. A non-party opposing the production or inspection of the premises still has a right to claim privilege, but will be required to support the claim with a sufficient basis to enable the demanding party to challenge the privilege claim. Rule 45 allows an attorney to sign a subpoena and to issue the subpoena as an officer of the court. The Rule allows the person under subpoena to seek relief if the request is unreasonable, or not enough time has been allowed for compliance. The person subpoenaed may also seek relief if they are (1) required to travel more than one hundred miles to comply with the subpoena, (2) privileged materials have been requested, or (3) the subpoena subjects the witness to undue burden.

Rules 47 and 48

Rule 47(b) has been eliminated so that alternate jurors are no longer allowed. Instead, Rule 48, which is a newly enacted Rule, allows all jurors to participate in the verdict unless excused for good cause. The jury panel must not be made up of fewer than six jurors, and not more than 12. All verdicts must be unanimous.

Rule 50

Motions for a directed verdict and motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict in a jury trial have been eliminated. They have been replaced by a motion for judgment as a matter of law. A motion for judgment as a matter of law will be granted only if a party has been fully heard with respect to an issue and there is no legally sufficient basis to differ with the moving party. Under Rule 50(a), a motion may be made at any time before the case is submitted to the jury. The motion cannot be made after trial unless it is first made before the case is submitted to the jury. The motion must specifically state its basis and what relief is sought.

Rule 52

Allows the trial court in a bench trial to enter judgment as a matter of law on any claim that cannot be maintained. The motion may be granted once a proponent has been fully heard regarding that issue, and the court finds against that party on that issue. Rule 52(c) replaces old Rule 41(b). Any party may bring this motion. There is no longer a need to wait until the completion of the presentation of the evidence.

Rule 53

Has been amended to require Special Masters to serve copies of their reports on all parties.

Rule 63

Allows a judge to substitute another trial judge for any reason. A substitute judge must establish that he or she may continue the case without prejudice to any of the parties. If the substitution occurs in a bench trial, material witnesses whose testimony are disputed must be recalled at the request of any party.

Rule 72

Has been changed to require that objections to a Magistrate’s Order must be served and filed within ten days after receipt of said Magistrate’s Order by the objecting party.

Rule 77

Allows relief to a party who has missed the deadline to file an appeal because of a clerk’s failure to provide that party notice of the entry of judgment. The above-referenced changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are important and should be noted by the trial practitioner. It is important that the changes to the Rules be read in their entirety, and be fully digested and understood. There will undoubtedly be other changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the near future since the Federal Rules committee is currently working to amend, revise, and change many aspects of the Rules. Future articles will address those changes when they are implemented.