Rule 25 – Substitution of Parties

(a) Death.

(1) Substitution if the Claim Is Not Extinguished. If a party dies and the claim is not extinguished, the court may order substitution of the proper party. A motion for substitution may be made by any party or by the decedent’s successor or representative. If the motion is not made within 90 days after service of a statement noting the death, the action by or against the decedent must be dismissed.

(2) Continuation Among the Remaining Parties. After a party’s death, if the right sought to be enforced survives only to or against the remaining parties, the action does not abate, but proceeds in favor of or against the remaining parties. The death should be noted on the record.

(3) Service. A motion to substitute, together with a notice of hearing, must be served on the parties as provided in Rule 5 and on nonparties as provided in Rule 4. A statement noting death must be served in the same manner. Service may be made in any judicial district.

(b) Incompetency. If a party becomes incompetent, the court may, on motion, permit the action to be continued by or against the party’s representative. The motion must be served as provided in Rule 25(a)(3).

(c) Transfer of Interest. If an interest is transferred, the action may be continued by or against the original party unless the court, on motion, orders the transferee to be substituted in the action or joined with the original party. The motion must be served as provided in Rule 25(a)(3).

(d) Public Officers; Death or Separation from Office. An action does not abate when a public officer who is a party in an official capacity dies, resigns, or otherwise ceases to hold office while the action is pending. The officer’s successor is automatically substituted as a party. Later proceedings should be in the substituted party’s name, but any misnomer not affecting the parties’ substantial rights must be disregarded. The court may order substitution at any time, but the absence of such an order does not affect the substitution.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25 deals with the substitution of parties in a lawsuit due to certain circumstances such as death, incompetency, transfer of interest, or when public officers are involved in litigation in their official capacity. This rule ensures the continuity and equitable administration of justice, even when changes affecting parties occur during litigation. Here’s a breakdown of its key aspects:

  1. Substitution for Death (Rule 25(a)): If a party dies and the claim is not extinguished by that death, the court may order the substitution of the proper parties. The motion for substitution must be made within a specified period, typically 90 days after the death is suggested on the record, unless the court grants an extension.
  2. Substitution for Incompetency (Rule 25(b)): If a party becomes incompetent, the court may similarly allow for the substitution of the proper party to represent the incompetent person’s interests in the lawsuit.
  3. Transfer of Interest (Rule 25(c)): If a party transfers an interest during the litigation, the court may allow the person to whom the interest is transferred to be substituted in the action or joined with the original party.
  4. Public Officers; Death or Separation from Office (Rule 25(d)): When a public officer who is a party to an action in an official capacity dies, resigns, or otherwise ceases to hold office, the action does not abate. Instead, the officer’s successor is automatically substituted as a party. Proceedings following the substitution should not be delayed for the formal substitution of the new officer.
  5. Procedure for Substitution: The rule outlines specific procedural steps that must be followed to effect a substitution, including the requirement to file a motion for substitution, serve notice on parties as per Rule 5, and provide the court with reasons for the substitution.

Rule 25 plays a crucial role in addressing changes in party status during litigation, allowing legal proceedings to continue without undue delay or prejudice to the interests involved. It reflects the principle that legal disputes should be resolved based on their merits, rather than being derailed by external factors such as the death or incompetency of a party, changes in property ownership, or changes in public office.


(As amended Dec. 29, 1948, eff. Oct. 20, 1949; Apr. 17, 1961, eff. July 19, 1961; Jan. 21, 1963, eff. July 1, 1963; Mar. 2, 1987, eff. Aug. 1, 1987; Apr. 30, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1937

Note to Subdivision (a). 1. The first paragraph of this rule is based upon [former] Equity Rule 45 (Death of Party—Revivor) and U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §778 (Death of parties; substitution of executor or administrator). The scire facias procedure provided for in the statute cited is superseded and the writ is abolished by Rule 81 (b). Paragraph two states the content of U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §779 (Death of one of several plaintiffs or defendants). With these two paragraphs compare generally English Rules Under the Judicature Act (The Annual Practice, 1937) O. 17, r.r. 1–10.

  1. This rule modifies U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §§778 (Death of parties; substitution of executor or administrator), 779 (Death of one of several plaintiffs or defendants), and 780 (Survival of actions, suits, or proceedings, etc.) insofar as they differ from it.

Note to Subdivisions (b) and (c). These are a combination and adaptation of N.Y.C.P.A. (1937) §83 and Calif.Code Civ.Proc. (Deering, 1937) §385; see also 4 Nev.Comp.Laws (Hillyer, 1929) §8561.

Note to Subdivision (d). With the first and last sentences compare U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §780 (Survival of actions, suits, or proceedings, etc.). With the second sentence of this subdivision compare Ex parte La Prade, 289 U.S. 444 (1933).

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1948 Amendment

The Act of February 13, 1925, 43 Stat. 941, U.S.C. Title 28, §780, is repealed and not included in revised Title 28, for the stated reason that it is “Superseded by Rules 25 and 81 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” See Report from the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, to Accompany H.R. 3214, House Rept. 308 (80th Cong., 1st Sess.), p. A239. Those officers which that Act specified but which were not enumerated in Rule 25(d), namely, officers of “the Canal Zone, or of a Territory or an insular possession of the United States, . . . or other governmental agency of such Territory or insular possession,” should now be specifically enumerated in the rule and the amendment so provides.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1961 Amendment

Subdivision (d)(1). Present Rule 25(d) is generally considered to be unsatisfactory. 4 Moore’s Federal Practice 25.01[7] (2d ed. 1950); Wright, Amendments to the Federal Rules: The Function of a Continuing Rules Committee, 7 Vand.L.Rev. 521, 529 (1954); Developments in the Law—Remedies Against the United States and Its Officials, 70 Harv.L.Rev. 827, 931–34 (1957). To require, as a condition of substituting a successor public officer as a party to a pending action, that an application be made with a showing that there is substantial need for continuing the litigation, can rarely serve any useful purpose and fosters a burdensome formality. And to prescribe a short, fixed time period for substitution which cannot be extended even by agreement, see Snyder v. Buck, 340 U.S. 15, 19 (1950), with the penalty of dismissal of the action, “makes a trap for unsuspecting litigants which seems unworthy of a great government.” Vibra Brush Corp. v. Schaffer, 256 F.2d 681, 684 (2d Cir. 1958). Although courts have on occasion found means of undercutting the rule, e.g. Acheson v. Furusho, 212 F.2d 284 (9th Cir. 1954) (substitution of defendant officer unnecessary on theory that only a declaration of status was sought), it has operated harshly in many instances, e.g. Snyder v. Buck, supra; Poindexter v. Folsom, 242 F.2d 516 (3d Cir. 1957).

Under the amendment, the successor is automatically substituted as a party without an application or showing of need to continue the action. An order of substitution is not required, but may be entered at any time if a party desires or the court thinks fit.

The general term “public officer” is used in preference to the enumeration which appears in the present rule. It comprises Federal, State, and local officers.

The expression “in his official capacity” is to be interpreted in its context as part of a simple procedural rule for substitution; care should be taken not to distort its meaning by mistaken analogies to the doctrine of sovereign immunity from suit or the Eleventh Amendment. The amended rule will apply to all actions brought by public officers for the government, and to any action brought in form against a named officer, but intrinsically against the government or the office or the incumbent thereof whoever he may be from time to time during the action. Thus the amended rule will apply to actions against officers to compel performance of official duties or to obtain judicial review of their orders. It will also apply to actions to prevent officers from acting in excess of their authority or under authority not validly conferred, cf. Philadelphia Co. v. Stimson, 223 U.S. 605 (1912), or from enforcing unconstitutional enactments, cf. Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908); Ex parte La Prade, 289 U.S. 444 (1933). In general it will apply whenever effective relief would call for corrective behavior by the one then having official status and power, rather than one who has lost that status and power through ceasing to hold office. Cf. Land v. Dollar, 330 U.S. 731 (1947); Larson v. Domestic & Foreign Commerce Corp., 337 U.S. 682 (1949). Excluded from the operation of the amended rule will be the relatively infrequent actions which are directed to securing money judgments against the named officers enforceable against their personal assets; in these cases Rule 25(a)(1), not Rule 25(d), applies to the question of substitution. Examples are actions against officers seeking to make them pay damages out of their own pockets for defamatory utterances or other misconduct in some way related to the office, see Barr v. Matteo, 360 U.S. 564 (1959); Howard v. Lyons, 360 U.S. 593 (1959); Gregoire v. Biddle, 177 F.2d 579 (2d Cir. 1949), cert. denied, 339 U.S. 949 (1950). Another example is the anomalous action for a tax refund against a collector of internal revenue, see Ignelzi v. Granger, 16 F.R.D. 517 (W.D.Pa. 1955), 28 U.S.C. §2006, 4 Moore, supra, 25.05, p. 531; but see 28 U.S.C. §1346(a)(1), authorizing the bringing of such suits against the United States rather than the officer.

Automatic substitution under the amended rule, being merely a procedural device for substituting a successor for a past officeholder as a party, is distinct from and does not affect any substantive issues which may be involved in the action. Thus a defense of immunity from suit will remain in the case despite a substitution.

Where the successor does not intend to pursue the policy of his predecessor which gave rise to the lawsuit, it will be open to him, after substitution, as plaintiff to seek voluntary dismissal of the action, or as defendant to seek to have the action dismissed as moot or to take other appropriate steps to avert a judgment or decree. Contrast Ex parte La Prade, supra; Allen v. Regents of the University System, 304 U.S. 439 (1938); McGrath v. National Assn. of Mfgrs., 344 U.S. 804 (1952); Danenberg v. Cohen, 213 F.2d 944 (7th Cir. 1954).

As the present amendment of Rule 25(d)(1) eliminates a specified time period to secure substitution of public officers, the reference in Rule 6(b) (regarding enlargement of time) to Rule 25 will no longer apply to these public-officer substitutions.

As to substitution on appeal, the rules of the appellate courts should be consulted.

Subdivision (d)(2). This provision, applicable in “official capacity” cases as described above, will encourage the use of the official title without any mention of the officer individually, thereby recognizing the intrinsic character of the action and helping to eliminate concern with the problem of substitution. If for any reason it seems necessary or desirable to add the individual’s name, this may be done upon motion or on the court’s initiative without dismissal of the action; thereafter the procedure of amended Rule 25(d)(1) will apply if the individual named ceases to hold office.

For examples of naming the office or title rather than the officeholder, see Annot., 102 A.L.R. 943, 948–52; Comment, 50 Mich.L.Rev. 443, 450 (1952); cf. 26 U.S.C. §7484. Where an action is brought by or against a board or agency with continuity of existence, it has been often decided that there is no need to name the individual members and substitution is unnecessary when the personnel changes. 4 Moore, supra, 25.09, p. 536. The practice encouraged by amended Rule 25(d)(2) is similar.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1963 Amendment

Present Rule 25(a)(1), together with present Rule 6(b), results in an inflexible requirement that an action be dismissed as to a deceased party if substitution is not carried out within a fixed period measured from the time of the death. The hardships and inequities of this unyielding requirement plainly appear from the cases. See e.g., Anderson v. Yungkau, 329 U.S. 482, 67 S.Ct. 428, 91 L.Ed. 436 (1947); Iovino v. Waterson, 274 F.2d 41 (1959), cert. denied, Carlin v. Sovino, 362 U.S. 949, 80 S.Ct. 860, 4 L.Ed.2d 867 (1960); Perry v. Allen, 239 F.2d 107 (5th Cir. 1956); Starnes v. Pennsylvania R.R., 26 F.R.D. 625 (E.D.N.Y.), aff’d per curiam, 295 F.2d 704 (2d Cir. 1961), cert. denied, 369 U.S. 813, 82 S.Ct. 688, 7 L.Ed.2d 612 (1962); Zdanok v. Glidden Co., 28 F.R.D. 346 (S.D.N.Y. 1961). See also 4 Moore’s Federal Practice 25.01[9] (Supp. 1960); 2 Barron & Holtzoff, Federal Practice & Procedure §621, at 420–21 (Wright ed. 1961).

The amended rule establishes a time limit for the motion to substitute based not upon the time of the death, but rather upon the time information of the death as provided by the means of a suggestion of death upon the record, i.e., service of a statement of the fact of the death. Cf. Ill.Ann.Stat., ch. 110, §54(2) (Smith-Hurd 1956). The motion may not be made later than 90 days after the service of the statement unless the period is extended pursuant to Rule 6(b), as amended. See the Advisory Committee’s Note to amended Rule 6(b). See also the new Official Form 30.

A motion to substitute may be made by any party or by the representative of the deceased party without awaiting the suggestion of death. Indeed, the motion will usually be so made. If a party or the representative of the deceased party desires to limit the time within which another may make the motion, he may do so by suggesting the death upon the record.

A motion to substitute made within the prescribed time will ordinarily be granted, but under the permissive language of the first sentence of the amended rule (“the court may order”) it may be denied by the court in the exercise of a sound discretion if made long after the death—as can occur if the suggestion of death is not made or is delayed—and circumstances have arisen rendering it unfair to allow substitution. Cf. Anderson v. Yungkau, supra, 329 U.S. at 485, 486, 67 S.Ct. at 430, 431, 91 L.Ed. 436, where it was noted under the present rule that settlement and distribution of the state of a deceased defendant might be so far advanced as to warrant denial of a motion for substitution even though made within the time limit prescribed by that rule. Accordingly, a party interested in securing substitution under the amended rule should not assume that he can rest indefinitely awaiting the suggestion of death before he makes his motion to substitute.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1987 Amendment

The amendments are technical. No substantive change is intended.

Committee Notes on Rules—2007 Amendment

The language of Rule 25 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.

Former Rule 25(d)(2) is transferred to become Rule 17(d) because it deals with designation of a public officer, not substitution.

Changes Made After Publication and Comment. See Note to Rule 1, supra.

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