Improving Rule 1: A Master Rule for the Federal Rules

24 Pages Posted: 5 May 2010 Last revised: 15 May 2010

See all articles by Robert G. Bone

Robert G. Bone

University of Texas School of Law

Date Written: April 27, 2010


This essay is a contribution to a symposium on civil justice reform published in the University of Denver Law Review. Each contributor was asked to choose a specific Federal Rule of Civil Procedure and explain how it should be changed. My essay focuses on Rule 1, which sets out a principle for interpreting all the other Federal Rules: they “should be construed and administered to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”

Rule 1 is vital to the overall rule scheme. Many of the Federal Rules are drafted with general and open-ended language in order to leave broad discretion in the hands of trial judges, and Rule 1 is meant to guide that discretion. I argue that while Rule 1’s interpretive principle made sense in 1938, when the Federal Rules were first adopted, it offers little guidance today. Part I of the essay summarizes the history of Rule 1. It explains what the phrase “just, speedy, and inexpensive” meant to the original rule drafters and describes the various ways courts have applied it between 1938 and the present. Part II proposes an amendment to Rule 1 that better frames what the purpose of the Federal Rules ought to be. My hope is that an amended Rule 1 will encourage more explicit and careful deliberation about procedural design choices in light of the values and factors that ought to shape the procedures of civil adjudication.

Keywords: Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 1, 'Just, Speedy, and Inexpensive', Civil Justice Reform, Procedure Theory, Error Risk Distribution

JEL Classification: K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Bone, Robert G., Improving Rule 1: A Master Rule for the Federal Rules (April 27, 2010). Denver University Law Review, Vol. 87, No. 2, pp. 287-309, 2010, U of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 169, Available at SSRN: or

Robert G. Bone (Contact Author)

University of Texas School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States
512-232-5562 (Phone)
512-471-6988 (Fax)

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