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Amendments to the Federal Rules of Practice and Procedure: Civil Rules 2015

David G. Campbell, Gene E.K. Pratter, John G. Koeltl, Paul W. Grimm
December 1, 2015

Video Series: The amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that became effective on December 1, 2015, reformed discovery rules for the sake of efficiency, including cost containment. The amendments are not intended to deprive parties in civil litigation of proof or defense.

The first video in this series of five short videos provides an overview of the amendments. The other four videos address the four primary themes of the amendments. Also posted on this website is text of Amendments to the Federal Rules of Practice and Procedure.

Discussion of these amendments is the principal topic of The Chief Justice's 2015 Year-End Report.

Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which became effective on December 1, 2015, foster more cost-effective discovery through cooperation, proportionality, early and active case management, and considerations of electronically stored information (ESI). This video is an overview of amendments to Rules 1, 16, 26, 34, and 37.

An amendment to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1, which became effective on December 1, 2015, resulted from a finding that civil litigation is resolved more quickly and less expensively when parties and lawyers cooperate. The amendment makes explicit that the rules "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."

Proportional Discovery
This video describes amendments to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), 26(c)(1)(B), 26(d), and 34 that became effective on December 1. Amendments to Rule 26(b)(1) are designed to promote proportional discovery: discovery tailored by the judge and the parties to meet the reasonable needs of the case. Proportional discovery provides the information needed by the litigants to prove their cases, but avoids excess and waste. Judges are encouraged to engage in a dialogue with the parties regarding the amount of discovery reasonably needed to resolve the litigation. This video also describes amended Rule 26(c)(1)(B) on cost shifting, an amendment to Rule 26(d) on document production, and changes to Rule 34 on objections to document production requests.

Early and Active Case Management
Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that became effective on December 1, 2015, respond to findings that early intervention by judges helps to narrow issues and reduce discovery. Litigation results are more satisfactory when a judge actively manages a case from the beginning and stays involved. The amendments do not break new ground; they emphasize the importance of early, hands-on, and continuing case management. The times for service of a complaint and the time for holding an initial case-management conference are reduced. The rules now recognize that live conferences are almost always the most effective way to identify the needs of a case and issue orders tailored to efficient resolution. Discovery disputes should be addressed by discussion before motion. The amendments also concern preservation of electronically stored information (ESI) and Federal Rule of Evidence 502's protections against inadvertent waiver of the attorney–client privilege and work-product protections.

Failure to Preserve Electronically Stored Information
Amendments to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(e), which became effective on December 1, 2015, specify that sanctions for failure to preserve electronically stored information (ESI) require findings that (1) the ESI should have been preserved in the anticipation of litigation, (2) the party failed to take reasonable steps to preserve it, and (3) it cannot be restored or replaced through additional discovery. The rule does not create a duty to preserve ESI. Instead, it leaves in place the common-law duty.