Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP)
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) govern civil proceedings in the United States district courts. Their purpose is "to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding." Fed. R. Civ. P. 1. The rules were first adopted by order of the Supreme Court on December 20, 1937, transmitted to Congress on January 3, 1938, and effective September 16, 1938. The Civil Rules were last amended in 2020.
The Rules, established in 1938, replaced the earlier procedures under the Federal Equity Rules and the Conformity Act (28 USC 724 (1934)) merging the procedure for cases, in law and equity. The Conformity Act required that procedures in suits at law conform to state practice, usually the Field Code or a pleading system based on common law. Before the FRCP were established, common-law pleading was more formal, traditional, and particular in its phrases and requirements. For example, a plaintiff bringing a trespass suit would have to mention certain key words in his complaint or risk having it dismissed with prejudice. In contrast, the FRCP is based upon a legal construction called notice pleading, which is less formal, is created and modified by legal experts, and is far less technical in requirements. In notice pleading, the same plaintiff bringing suit would not face dismissal for lack of the exact legal term, as long as the claim itself was legally actionable. The policy behind this change is to simply give "notice" of grievances and to leave the details for later in the case. This acts in the interest of equity by concentrating on the actual law rather than the exact construction of pleas. The Field Code, which was adopted between 1848 and 1850, was an intermediate step between common law and modern rules, created by New York attorney David Dudley Field. The Field Code was partially inspired by civil law systems in Europe and Louisiana, and among other reforms, merged law and equity proceedings. Significant revisions have been made to the FRCP in 1948, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1980, 1983, 1987, 1993, 2000, and 2006. The FRCP contains a notes section that details the changes of each revision since 1938, explaining the rationale behind the language. The revisions that took effect in December 2006 made practical changes to discovery rules to make it easier for courts and litigating parties to manage electronic records. The 1966 amendments to the FRCP unified the civil and admiralty procedure, and added the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims, now Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions. The FRCP were re-written with respect to style, effective December 1, 2007, under the leadership of law professor and editor of Black's Law Dictionary Bryan A. Garner, for the avowed purpose of making them easier to understand. The style amendments were not intended to make substantive changes in the rules. Effective December 1, 2009, substantial amendments were made to rules 6, 12, 13, 14, 15, 23, 27, 32, 38, 48, 50, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 59, 62, 65, 68, 71.1, 72 and 81. While rules 48 and 62.1 were added. Rule 1(f) was abrogated. The majority of the amendments affect various timing requirements and change how some deadlines are calculated. The most significant changes are to Rule 6.