Chief Justice Calls for Change in Legal Culture

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Jan. 4 — Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. devoted much of his 2015 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary to the new amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, their history and their significance. The Report was released Dec. 31.

According to Chief Justice Roberts, “the amendments may not look like a big deal at first glance, but they are.” To illustrate this point, he noted the change to Rule 1, which now makes the parties, together with court, responsible for securing the “just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.” The chief justice explained that amended Rule 1 imposes an obligation on judges and lawyers to work cooperatively to control the cost and time demands of litigation.

The chief justice also noted that new Rule 26(b)(1) “crystallizes the concept of reasonable limits on discovery through increased reliance on the common-sense concept of proportionality.”

Lastly, the Year-End Report details the incorporation of the issue of ‘electronically stored information' and how it is handled in discovery, specifically through new 37(e).

“Many rules amendments are modest and technical, even persnickety, but the 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are different,” he explained. “Those amendments are the product of five years of intense study, debate, and drafting to address the most serious impediments to just, speedy, and efficient resolution of civil disputes.”

The chief justice explained that the amendment process began as far back as 2010, when the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules sponsored a civil litigation symposium in which judges, professors and lawyers generated 40 pages and 25 data compilations, confirming that in many cases, civil litigation had become too expensive and time-consuming. The symposium highlighted a need for reforms that would encourage cooperation, steer discovery's focus toward proportionality and engage judges in active case management.

Chief Justice Roberts encouraged both the judiciary and lawyers to take advantage of trainings provided through the Federal Judicial Center and the American Bar Association and local bar organizations, respectively.

“The success of the 2015 civil rules amendments will require more than organized educational efforts,” the chief justice concluded. “It will also require a genuine commitment, by judges and lawyers alike, to ensure that our legal culture reflects the values we all ultimately share.”

The full text of the Year-End Report is available at