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Recent and Proposed Amendments to Federal Rules – Annual Report 2018

The Federal Rules of Practice and Procedure govern practice in the federal courts. The Judicial Conference Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure (Standing Committee) and its five advisory committees carry on a continuous study of the operation and effect of the federal rules as directed by the Rules Enabling Act.

Newly Adopted Federal Rules Amendments

In April 2018, the Supreme Court transmitted to Congress proposed amendments to the following rules and forms:

Congress took no action to modify or reject these Supreme Court-approved amendments, and the amendments took effect on Dec. 1, 2018.

Among the amendments are revisions to Appellate Rule 25, Bankruptcy Rules 5005 and 8011, Civil Rule 5, and Criminal Rule 49, which continue an effort to develop coordinated rules for electronic filing and service. The amendments require parties represented by counsel to file electronically, with exceptions for good cause and local rules. The amendments also address pro se filing, establish a uniform national signature provision, and address proof of service (except for Bankruptcy Rule 5005). The Criminal Rules no longer incorporate Civil Rule 5. Instead, amendments to Criminal Rule 49 create a stand-alone criminal rule for filing and service that addresses concerns particular to criminal law practice.

Pending Rules Amendments

On Sept. 13, 2018, the Judicial Conference approved the following amendments proposed by its Standing Committee. The proposed amendments were transmitted to the Supreme Court on Oct. 24, 2018:

The bulk of the proposed amendments to the Appellate Rules reflect changes to proof-of-service requirements consistent with the ongoing shift to electronic filing and service in civil cases. Rule 26.1 proposes changes to the party disclosures required in appellate cases.

The pending amendments to Bankruptcy Rules 4001, 6007, 9036, and 9037 address distinct matters.  Amendments to Bankruptcy Rule 4001(c) – Obtaining Credit – set forth requirements for obtaining court approval of post-petition credit in bankruptcy cases, including the filing of a motion containing detailed disclosures and information, and, exempt Chapter 13 cases from the rule’s requirements.

The amendments to Bankruptcy Rule 6007(b) – Abandonment or Disposition of Property – are designed to specify parties that must be served with a motion to compel the trustee to abandon property under § 554(b) of the Bankruptcy Code, and to make the rule consistent with Rule 6007(a), which deals with abandonment by the trustee or debtor in possession.

The amendments to Rule 9036 – Notice by Electronic Transmission – would allow clerks and parties to provide notices or serve documents (other than those governed by Rule 7004) using the court’s electronic filing system on the system’s registered users. They would also allow service or noticing on any person by any electronic means consented to in writing by that person. The service or notice would be complete upon filing or sending, but it would not be effective if the filer or sender learns that it was not received.

Finally, the proposed amendments to Rule 9037 – Privacy Protection for Filings Made with the Court – add a new subdivision (h) to address the procedure for redacting personal identifiers in previously filed documents that are not in compliance with Rule 9037(a).

Proposed new Criminal Rule 16.1 – Pretrial Discovery Conference; Request for Court Action – originated with a suggestion that Rule 16 – Discovery and Inspection – be amended to address disclosure and discovery in complex criminal cases. Proposed Rule 16.1 reflects consensus among criminal defense attorneys, public defenders, Department of Justice attorneys, discovery experts, and judges. It consists of two subsections:

Proposed Rule 16.1 does not require the court to accept the parties’ agreement or otherwise limit the court’s discretion. Courts retain the authority to establish standards for the schedule and manner of discovery in individual cases, as well as through local rules and standing orders.

Finally, proposed amendments to Rule 5(e) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases and Rule 5(d) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings make clear that the moving party has a right to file a reply.

The pending proposed amendments to Evidence Rule 807 seek to improve the rule to address various issues in the application of the residual exception.

If the Supreme Court approves the proposed amendments, they will be transmitted to Congress by May 1, 2019. Barring congressional action to modify or reject them, the amendments would take effect on Dec. 1, 2019. Since official bankruptcy forms do not require Supreme Court approval, form revisions took effect on Dec. 1, 2018, along with the revisions to Official Bankruptcy Forms 417A and 417C that the Judicial Conference approved last year.

Proposed Amendments for Public Comment

In August 2018, proposed amendments to the following rules were published along with a solicitation for comments from the bench, bar, and public:

The public comment period closed on Feb. 15, 2019.