Rule 21 – Misjoinder and Nonjoinder of Parties

Misjoinder of parties is not a ground for dismissing an action. On motion or on its own, the court may at any time, on just terms, add or drop a party. The court may also sever any claim against a party.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 addresses the “Misjoinder and Nonjoinder of Parties,” offering guidance on how to handle cases where parties have been improperly included or omitted from a lawsuit. This rule is crucial for ensuring that only relevant and necessary parties are part of the litigation process. Here’s a summary of its key aspects:

  1. Correction of Misjoinder: Rule 21 allows for the correction of a misjoinder, which occurs when a party has been wrongly included in a lawsuit. If a party is added to a case without a valid basis—meaning their involvement does not meet the criteria for proper joinder under the Federal Rules—the court has the authority to remove that party from the case.
  2. Addressing Nonjoinder: Nonjoinder refers to the failure to include a necessary party in a lawsuit. Rule 21 permits the addition of a party who should have been included from the outset, ensuring that all relevant parties are given the opportunity to participate in the legal process and that the court can fully and fairly adjudicate the matter.
  3. Flexible Remedies: The rule gives courts the flexibility to deal with misjoinder and nonjoinder issues without dismissing the entire case. The court can order the severance of claims involving the misjoined party, allowing those claims to proceed separately, or it can direct the addition of the omitted necessary party.
  4. No Impact on Jurisdiction: Importantly, Rule 21 specifies that neither misjoinder nor nonjoinder of parties affects the court’s jurisdiction over the case. This means that correcting these issues does not undermine the court’s authority to hear the case, allowing the litigation to continue with the appropriate parties.
  5. Strategic Considerations: Practitioners must carefully consider the composition of parties to a lawsuit, recognizing that misjoinder or nonjoinder can lead to procedural complications. Rule 21 provides a mechanism to rectify such issues, ensuring that the litigation process remains fair and efficient.

In essence, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 ensures the integrity of the litigation process by allowing courts to correct mistakes related to the improper inclusion or exclusion of parties from a lawsuit. It emphasizes the importance of having the correct parties in a case to achieve just outcomes, while also providing the flexibility needed to address and remedy such issues without derailing the proceedings.


(As amended Apr. 30, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1937

See English Rules Under the Judicature Act (The Annual Practice, 1937) O. 16, r. 11. See also [former] Equity Rules 43 (Defect of Parties—Resisting Objection) and 44 (Defect of Parties—Tardy Objection).

For separate trials see Rules 13(i) (Counterclaims and Cross-Claims: Separate Trials; Separate Judgments), 20(b) (Permissive Joinder of Parties: Separate Trials), and 42(b) (Separate Trials, generally) and the note to the latter rule.

Committee Notes on Rules—2007 Amendment

The language of Rule 21 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Civil Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only.

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