We start the new year with a review of Chief Justice Roberts’ 2015 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, which is the subject of a December 31, 2015 article in The Washington Post, titled Roberts urges lawyers, judges to help improve ‘contentious’ federal system. According to the Post, the Chief Justice called for lawyers to cooperate with one another and for judges to be more hands-on, noting that the legal system has become “too expensive, time-consuming and contentious.”
In his report, Roberts addressed the 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and his hope that the new version of the rules would eviscerate attorney gamesmanship and speed up cases:
I am hardly the first to urge that we must engineer a change in our legal culture that places a premium on the public’s interest in speedy, fair, and efficient justice. But I am motivated to address the subject now because the 2015 civil rules amendments provide a concrete opportunity for actually getting something done.
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The amended rule states, as a fundamental principle, that lawyers must size and shape their discovery requests to the requisites of a case.
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Most [attorneys] will readily agree — in the abstract — that they have an obligation to their clients, and to the justice system, to avoid antagonistic tactics, wasteful procedural maneuvers, and teetering brinksmanship. . . . I cannot believe that many members of the bar went to law school because of a burning desire to spend their professional life wearing down opponents with creatively burdensome discovery requests or evading legitimate requests through dilatory tactics.
The Chief Justice also wrote about the role of judges early in cases to move matters along:
A well-timed scowl from a trial judge can go a long way in moving things along crisply.
In this new year, we at LPR hope that these new amendments speak to all attorneys and judges in federal and state cases. The antagonistic and dilatory tactics of which Chief Justice Roberts speaks only serve to drag out legal matters, raise legal fees, and erode the public’s confidence in the legal system. Hopefully those who serve legal consumers will heed the Chief Judge’s admonition.