Amendments to the federal Rules of Civil Procedure became effective last month, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. focused on those amendments as the cornerstone of his 2015 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, calling them transformational and a concrete step toward “a change in our legal culture that places a premium on the public’s interest in speedy, fair and efficient justice.”
I like the amendments because they promote civility and professionalism. For history buffs (and Alexander Hamilton fans), the report opens and closes with an in-depth discussion of how prevalent dueling once was as a method of dispute resolution. And how many lives were lost or nearly lost as a result.
In 1838, John Lyde Wilson, a former governor of South Carolina, authored a rule book for dueling that established time limits, the form and methods of communications, the requirement to attempt reconciliation without bloodshed, and, if all else fails, how to pace off the fatal encounter.
Wilson said he wasn’t advocating duels to resolve disputes, but that dueling was inevitable “where there is no tribunal to do justice to an oppressed and deeply wronged individual.”
Roberts explains that Wilson’s rule book is a reminder that the government has an obligation to provide tribunals for the peaceful resolution of disputes. The implication is rather than allowing wasteful procedural activities akin to dueling, the amended rules encourage a superior dispute resolution mechanism for the public.
The amendments to the rules address what the Commission on Professionalism has termed in our statewide surveys of professionalism “strategic incivility.”
As is clear from our surveys, many lawyers are of the opinion that they must “zealously advocate,” which means leave no stone unturned in litigation, especially if the clients want that approach. This type of procedural gamesmanship that consumes lawyer activity and client dollars is discouraged by the civil rule amendments.
READ MORE Chicago Daily Law Bulletin Volume 162, No 18 January 27, 2016