The Shadow Rules of Joinder

Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 100, 2012

Brooklyn Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 244

64 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2011 Last revised: 14 Mar 2012

Date Written: March 13, 2012


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide litigants with procedural devices for joining claims and parties. Several of these rules demand that the claims or parties share a baseline of commonality, either in the form of the same “transaction or occurrence” or a “common question of law or fact.” Both phrases have proved to be notoriously tricky in application. Commentators from the academy and the judiciary have attributed these difficulties to the context- specific and discretionary nature of the rules.

This Article challenges that wisdom by suggesting that the doctrinal confu- sion can be attributed to deeper theoretical divisions in the judiciary, particu- larly with regard to the role of the ontological categories of “fact” and “law.” These theoretical divisions have led lower court judges to craft shadow rules of joinder. “Redescription” is the rule by which judges utilize a perceived law–fact distinction to characterize a set of facts as falling inside or outside a definition of commonality. “Implied predominance” is the rule in which judges have taken the Rule 23(b)(3) class action standard that common questions predominate over individual issues and applied it to other rules of joinder that do not have this express requirement.

After demonstrating the instability of the shadow rules, this Article suggests that the Rules drafters move away from a commonalities approach to joinder and toward a system in which each joinder directive contains criteria that stress the unique purpose of each joinder device and that account for the different managerial challenges that judges face in granting or denying joinder under each device. Such rules would not remove the delicate context-specific determi- nations from judges but would result in greater transparency and consistency of joinder decisions.

Keywords: civil procedure, Rule 13(a), compulsory counterclaim, Rule 15(c), relation back, Rule 20(a), permissive joinder, joinder of parties, Rule 23(a)(2), Rule 23(b)(3), Rule 24(b), Rule 42(a), Wal-Mart v. Dukes, notice, predominance, consolidation, class actions, multidistrict litigation, complex litigati

Suggested Citation

Effron, Robin, The Shadow Rules of Joinder (March 13, 2012). Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 100, 2012, Brooklyn Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 244, Available at SSRN:

Robin Effron (Contact Author)

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

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