ASL Library

News and events at the Appalachian School of Law Library (Grundy, VA).

Friday, November 30, 2007

New Federal Rules in Effect

As we mentioned in this month's Library News, many of the federal rules will be updated on December 1. This includes the "style-only" revision of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

We were curious: Why December 1?

When the Rules Enabling Act was first legislated in 1934 (Pub. L. No. 73-415, 48 Stat. 1064), there were two sections. One allowed the Supreme Court to prescribe court rules which would take effect sixty days after promulgation. The second allowed the Supreme Court to "unite the general rules prescribed by it for cases in equity with those in actions at law," but those rules had to be reported to Congress at the beginning of a regular session and would not take effect until after the close of that session. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were adopted through the second route in 1938. Later changes to the Rules Enabling Act allowed the Supreme Court to enact criminal rules (resulting in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure).

In the 1970s, Congress eventually agreed to the Federal Rules of Evidence, after making some major changes from the Supreme Court's version. Legislators began demanding more public input into the judicial rulemaking process, and in 1998, the Rules Enabling Act was updated. Now 28 U.S.C. 2074 requires the Supreme Court provide Congress with any proposed rule changes before May 1; those rules cannot go into effect any earlier than December 1.

So the "real" answer appears to be: because Congress said so. But clearly the underlying reason is to provide Congress enough time to approve or disapprove of the updates.