COMMITTEE ON RULES OF PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
OF THE
JUDICIAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED STATES

August 15, 2000

To the Bench, Bar, and Public:

I. Proposed Style Amendments to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

      The Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure has completed its style revision of the Criminal Rules in accordance with uniform drafting guidelines. The restyling of the Criminal Rules is the second in a series of comprehensive revisions to simplify, clarify, and make more uniform all of the federal procedural rules. The proposed restyled Criminal Rules are now circulated to the bench, bar, and public for comment. They are posted on the Internet at http://www.uscourts.gov/rules/.

      The proposed changes are intended to be primarily stylistic only. However, the Advisory Committee's extensive style review revealed ambiguities and inconsistencies in the rules that required correction. The committee has attempted to identify any revision that may cause a change in practice and explained them in the Committee Notes.

II. Proposed Substantive Amendments to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

      In addition to the style revisions, the Advisory Committee also has been considering one new rule and substantive amendments to ten existing rules. The eleven substantive proposed changes to the Criminal Rules are published in a separate pamphlet (along with other proposed substantive changes to the Federal Rules of Appellate, Bankruptcy, and Civil Procedure). The eleven proposed substantive amendments are published separately from the proposed style amendments to highlight amendments that will significantly change current procedural practice.

III. Opportunity for Public Comment

      Please provide any comments and suggestions on the proposed amendments (substantive or stylistic) whether favorable, adverse, or otherwise as soon as possible. The comment deadline is February 15, 2001. Please send all correspondence to: Secretary of the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, Administrative Office of the United States Courts, Washington, D.C. 20544. Comments may be sent electronically via the Internet to http://www.uscourts.gov/rules/.

The Advisory Committee will hold public hearings on the proposed substantive and stylistic amendments on the following dates:

January 24, 2001       New Orleans, Louisiana
January 29, 2001       San Francisco, California
February 12, 2001     Washington, D.C.

      If you wish to testify you must contact the Committee Secretary at the above address at least 30 days before the hearing. The Advisory Committee will review all timely comments. All comments are made part of the official record and available to the public.

      After the public comment period, the Advisory Committee will decide whether to submit the proposed amendments to the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure. At present, the Standing Committee has not approved these proposed amendments, except to authorize their publication for comment. The proposed amendments have not been submitted to nor considered by the Judicial Conference or the Supreme Court.

Anthony J. Scirica
Chair

Peter G. McCabe
Secretary

 


Introduction to Proposed Style Revision of
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

      The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure were enacted more than fifty years ago. Since then, the rules have been amended on twenty-seven occasions by committees and reporters who did not have drafting guidelines to assist them. Congress has also directly amended the criminal procedure rules. In some instances, the lack of drafting guidelines gave rise to inconsistent and ambiguous language.

      In 1991, the Judicial Conference's Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, through its Subcommittee on Style, commenced a restyling project to clarify, simplify, and make uniform the federal procedural rules. The Rules of Criminal Procedure are the second set of procedural rules to be restyled. Following uniform drafting guidelines developed by a noted legal writing scholar, the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules prepared a comprehensive stylistic revision of the criminal procedure rules. The restyled rules are now published for public comment.

      The proposed changes are intended to be primarily stylistic only. However, during the course of its comprehensive review, the Advisory Committee identified certain ambiguities and inconsistences in the rules that required correction. The committee has attempted to identify any revision that may cause a change in practice and explained them in the Committee Notes.

      For easy comparison, the proposed restyled rules are set forth in side-by-side comparison with their present counterparts. The Advisory Committee believes this presentation will illustrate the clarity and consistency of the restyled rules, and will help you identify any unintended substantive changes.

The Committee looks forward to your comments.


W. Eugene Davis
Chair
Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules







Background Note on the Rules Restyling Project

 

      The Federal Rules of Practice and Procedure are respected for their clarity and simplicity. They are models for many state and local court rules. Since their inception, some of the brightest legal minds have helped draft and revise the procedural rules. Yet the rules suffer from a shortcoming. Each set was drafted and modified by different committees, with different drafters and stylistic preferences. As a result, the rules are sometimes inconsistent and ambiguous.

      To solve the problem, in 1991 the Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, under the leadership of its Chair, Judge Robert E. Keeton, established a Subcommittee on Style, tasking it to clarify, simplify, and eliminate inconsistencies in proposed rules amendments. That charge was later expanded to include a systematic review of the appellate, bankruptcy, civil, and criminal rules. The first chair of that Subcommittee, Professor Charles Alan Wright, enlisted the aid of a leading legal writing scholar, who prepared uniform drafting guidelines on which the style subcommittee based its work.

      The Appellate Rules were the first to be restyled--a three-year process. The restyled Appellate Rules took effect in 1998 and have been well-received. The Criminal Rules were the next set to be restyled. After two years of restyling effort, the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules presented the restyled rules to the Standing Committee, which has now approved the rules to be published for public comment. The proposed rules are being widely circulated and made available to legal online services and publishers. Three public hearings have been scheduled. The Committees hope to receive substantial feedback. At the end of the comment period, the Advisory Committee will review all comments and make any appropriate amendments. If public comment is favorable, the restyled rules could be submitted for approval to the Standing Committee in June 2001, to the Judicial Conference in September 2001, and later to the Supreme Court. If approved by the Supreme Court, the restyled rules could be transmitted to Congress in May 2001 to take effect in December 2002.

      The rules committees recognize that a comprehensive change of established and well-known rules may cause initial transitional difficulty. They believe that the following side-by-side comparison will show that the restyled rules are a tremendous improvement that will benefit all.


THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON STYLE
OF THE
COMMITTEE ON RULES OF PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE

Professor Charles Alan Wright, chair (1991-- 1993);
Judge George C. Pratt, member (1991-- 1993), chair (1993 -- 1995);
Judge Alicemarie H. Stotler, member (1991 -- 1993);
Joseph F. Spaniol, Jr., consultant (1991 -- present);
Bryan A. Garner, consultant (1991 -- present);
Judge Robert E. Keeton, ex officio (1991 -- 1993);

Judge James A. Parker, member (1993 -- 1995), chair (1995 -- 1999);
Professor Geoffrey C. Hazard, Jr., member (1993 -- present);
Judge William R. Wilson, Jr., member (1995 -- 1999)
R. Joseph Kimble, consultant (2000 -- present);

Judge J. Garvan Murtha, chair (2000 -- present); and
Judge Anthony J. Scirica, ex officio (1998 -- present).