A Principled Approach to Procedural Reform: Zooming in on the Claim
76 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2016
Date Written: September 29, 2016
At the core of every liberal democracy is a commitment to a wide range of individual rights. The recognition and evolution of those rights is a lively topic of public debate. Procedural law, on the other hand, is well below the public radar. Yet, federal practice and procedure are silently eroding our system of democracy through a mechanical and fragmented approach to procedure that is increasingly detached from the litigation mission in a manner that elevates form over substance, prevents the creation and enforcement of rights, and ultimately denies access to justice. This article is part of a larger project intended to change the way we think about and approach procedural law and procedural reform at the federal level. My goal is to unearth the unifying principles of federal procedure and practice, and use them to design a system that promotes the coherent, fair, and efficient creation and enforcement of substantive rights. To that end, I elaborate a theory of federal procedure and practice that assigns to the claim, the essential litigation unit, a central role in litigation analysis and reform. Testing the federal rules and procedural doctrines against the claim helps us see when procedure, operating at a very high level of abstraction and formalism, suffocates substantive law and justice, thus failing to accomplish its essential mission of means in the creation and enforcement of substantive rights. Once identified the flaws in our procedural system, the project formulates reform proposals that are intended to return the rules and doctrines to the right balance between formalism and pragmatism, one essential for the rules and doctrines to accomplish their mission. Zooming in on the claim is crucial in this respect.
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