New Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: December 1, 2015

The Supreme Court has announced new amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  Specifically, the new rules:

1.  shorten the time for service of process under FRCP 4(m) from 120 days to 90 days.

2. shorten the time for holding an initial case management conference under FRCP 16(b) by 30 days, and added new topics that must be covered under FRCP 26(f) and at the Rule 16 conference.

3. specify that the scope of discovery in FRCP 26(b)(1) must now be proportional to the needs of the case.

4. Rule 37(e) has been more specifically written to address loss of electronically stored information, including the burden of imposing sanctions.

5. Rule 1 was amended to state that the parties and courts must operate to secure just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.

The word of the day is efficiency.  The Court has attempted to better address the realities of modern day storage of electronic information and reduce the burdens on the parties responding to expensive discovery requests.  The amendments to FRCP 26(b)(1) clearly show concern for avoiding abuse of unlimited rights to discovery of electronic information.  Experienced litigants well know that electronic discovery is often so costly that it can result in resolutions of litigation that have nothing to do with the merits of a case.  The committee notes relating to FRCP 37 also appear geared to bringing more common sense to the world of litigants spending exorbitant sums of money to avoid allegations of inadequate steps to preserve evidence.  With reference to subdivision (e), it is noted: “These developments have caused litigants to expend excessive effort and money on preservation in order to avoid the risk of severe sanctions if a court finds they did not do enough.”  see (page. 70).  Such amendments are a step in the right direction of reducing costly paranoia among litigants–and getting back to resolutions on the merits.  The amendments will also make it easier to move for protective orders against harassing discovery requests which seek discovery that is disproportionately expensive when weighed against the amounts in controversy of a particular case.

Copyright 2015.  Buche & Associates, P.C. This article was written by John Buche, who is a Patent Attorney in San Diego who specializes in federal civil litigation and intellectual property.