How Equity Conquered Common Law: The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in Historical Perspective

48 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2012  

Stephen Subrin

Northeastern University - School of Law

Date Written: 1987

Abstract

Part I of this Article first looks at the major components of common law and equity procedure, and then examines the domination of an equity mentality in the Federal Rules. Part II explores the American procedural experience before the twentieth century, and demonstrates how David Dudley Field and his 1848 New York Code were tied to a common law procedural outlook. Part III concentrates on Roscoe Pound (who initiated the twentieth century procedural reform effort), Thomas Shelton (who led the American Bar Association Enabling Act Movement), and Charles Clark (the major draftsman of the Federal Rules). Through understanding these men and the interests they represented, one can see that we did not stumble into an equity system; people with identifiable agendas wanted it. Part IV examines how the Federal Rules advocate rejected methods that might have helped balance and control their equity procedure, why the methods of confining the system failed, and why current approaches to redress the imbalance of an equity-dominated system will also fail. It concludes with a summary of fundamental constraints rejected by the advocates of uniform federal rules of procedure. My goal is to rescue some quite profound voices from the wilderness.

Suggested Citation

Subrin, Stephen, How Equity Conquered Common Law: The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in Historical Perspective (1987). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 135, No. 4, pp. 909-1002, April 1987; Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2084735

Stephen Subrin (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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