The Claim Prism
90 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2016 Last revised: 10 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 9, 2016
The years 1848 and 1938 were landmark years in the history of American procedural law. The first marked the advent of code pleading, and the second introduced the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Both developments were a product of reform movements that addressed what the reformers believed to be a procedural crisis generated by the inefficacy of the procedural system under attack. The goal was to create a system of procedure that was both efficient and instrumental to the vindication of substantive rights. In part, each crisis reflected a tension between formalism — the need for rules — and pragmatism — the need for flexibility. Hence, the early codes offered a code-based system that was structured but significantly less so than the common law system it replaced. The Federal Rules aimed to do the same in response to the codes. The difficulty facing both sets of reformers was that their respective tasks of reform required the imposition of rules and at the same time required a pragmatic but principled approach to applying those rules. It seems though that a rule-based system eventually drifts toward the rules and away from pragmatism. Thus, at some point the rules of code pleading came to dominate the instrumental goals of that system. The same appears to be happening with the law of federal courts, including both the Federal Rules and doctrinal procedural law beyond those rules. I believe we are now in the midst of a procedural crisis, but it is not one that requires a new set of rules. Rather it is one that requires a readjustment of the way we think about the current rules and doctrines. This article invites a rethinking of the law of federal courts, including both the rules and the doctrines. It invites a return to the principles that originally animated the Federal Rules, and to the idea of natural lawyering and judging that inspired Charles Clark. The article builds upon the idea of a convenient litigation unit as central to the dispute resolution mission of federal courts, that is, saying what the law is, adhering to the rule of law, and enforcing the checks and balances of our constitutional system.
Keywords: claim, pleadings, Charles Clark, Iqbal, Twombly, Rule 12(b)(6), justiciability, standing, Spokeo, political question doctrine, ripeness, mootness, jurisdiction, joinder, Erie, discovery, appellate standards of review, judicial decisionmaking, law of federal courts, legal theory
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