• Civil Rules Interpretive Theory

    Lumen Mulligan, Glen Staszewski
    MSU Law Faculty Repository
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    We contend that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Rules) should be interpreted in a distinctive fashion, despite the federal courts' proclivity to interpret the Rules as if they were statutes. The Supreme Court itself promulgates the Rules. Congress does not enact them as statutes through the traditional path of bicameralism and presentment. As a result, the principle of legislative supremacy and the related notion that the federal courts should serve as a faithful agent of Congress, which undergird every traditional theory of statutory interpretation, do not apply in the Rules context. Unlike statutory interpretation, Rules interpretation is not an interbranch endeavor, but rather an intrabranch one. The Rules, therefore, require an interpretive theory that is descriptively and normatively grounded within this non-legislative framework. That said, rule-of-law norms demonstrate that the Rules are authoritative and that they are generally interpretable from a perspective that we call "jurisprudential purposivism." From these insights, we draw several conclusions: namely, the Rules should not be interpreted as if they are statutes; the nascent nonstatutory theories of civil rules interpretation are inadequate; and an administrative law approach presents the best interpretive vision for the Rules. While our proposed model may not be the last word on the subject-indeed, we hope it is not-we intend it to be the beginning of sustained judicial and scholarly inquiry in the distinctive field of civil rules interpretive theory.
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    9 months ago
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