December is coming up fast and that means the 2016 Edition of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure will come into effect on December 1, 2015. We previously posted an article with a summary of the changes, so be sure to check that out for more detail. This web site will be updated on December 1 with the Rules changes.
(UPDATE: The print edition of the 2016 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is now available for purchase. Click here for more details.)
How are the updated rules different from the previous versions? We explain below:
- The process of initiating a lawsuit is sped up. In the previous rules, a plaintiff had 120 days to serve the defendant with the summons and complaint. The new version of Rule 4(m) reduces that time to just 90 days. The court has the option of dismissing the case if the plaintiff has not served the defendant in that period of time. In addition, the court must now issue a scheduling order within 60 days of the defendant being served, which is down from the previous 90 days. See rule 16(b)(2). Discovery can start sooner too. According to the new Rule 26(d)(2), requests for production can be served 21 days after the defendant is served with the summons and complaint, even if the Rule 26 scheduling conference hasn’t been held yet.
- Discovery is now held to a “proportionality” standard. The amended Rule 26(b) defines discovery as that which is proportional to the needs of the case. This eliminates the previous wording that is extremely expansive, which allowed discovery that is “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” This is a major change to the Rules. To illustrate this new proportionality standard, the text of the amended Rule 26(b)(1) is as follows (in part): “Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the amount in controversy, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the parties’ resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.”
- Failure to preserve Electronically Stored Information. Previously, the court had wide discretion to punish the failure to preserve ESI, but the 2016 amendments more clearly define the potential consequences. The amended Rule 37(e)(1) provides the court with a variety of remedies to address failures to preserve ESI that “should have” been maintained, including “measures no greater than necessary to cure” the loss of ESI or resulting prejudice.
- Miscellaneous. The section of the rules (Appendix of Forms) that contained sample forms has been removed, as has Rule 84, which referred to that Appendix. The forms will simply be posted on the US Courts web site.
We also recommend the United States Courts Archive web site for access to millions of federal court filings and cases.