Whither Bespoke Procedure?
David A. Hoffman
University of Pennsylvania Law School; Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School
February 15, 2013
University of Illinois Law Review, Forthcoming
Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-10
Increasingly we hear that civil procedure lurks in the shadow of private law. Scholars suggest that the civil rules are mere defaults, applying if the parties fail to contract around them. When judges confront terms modifying court procedures — a trend said to be explosive — they seem all-too-willing to surrender to the inevitable logic of private and efficient private ordering.
How concerned should we be? This Article casts a wide net to find examples of private contracts governing procedure, and finds a decided absence of evidence. I search a large database of agreements entered into by public firms, and a hand-coded set of credit card contracts. In both databases, clauses that craft private procedural rules are rare. This is a surprising finding given recent claims about the prevalence of these clauses, and the economic logic which makes them so compelling.
A developing literature about contract innovation helps to explain this puzzle. Parties are not rationally ignorant of the possibility of privatized procedure; nor are they simply afraid that such terms are unenforceable. Rather, evolution in the market for private procedure, like innovation in contracting generally, is subject to a familiar cycle of product innovation. Further developments in this field will not be linear, uniform and progressive; they will be punctuated, particularized and contingent.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 46
Keywords: private procedure, federal rules of civil procedure, contract law, bespoke, discovery, motion practice, arbitration
JEL Classification: K12, K41
Date posted: February 14, 2013 ; Last revised: May 13, 2013