The Supreme Court plays two roles regarding the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. First, the Court participates in the promulgation of the Federal Rules, exercising powers delegated by Congress under the Rules Enabling Act. Second, when cases reach the Supreme Court raising questions about the meaning or application of particular Federal Rules, the Supreme Court must interpret the relevant provisions.
In recent years the Court has often applied the plain meaning doctrine in interpreting particular Federal Rules. The plain meaning doctrine, which was developed in the context of statutory interpretation, focuses on the text of a provision and usually rejects reference to legislative intent, history, purpose, or policy goals. Professor Moore argues in this Article that the plain meaning doctrine is inappropriate to use in interpreting the Federal Rules. Instead, the Court should go beyond the text of a Rule and should consider in addition the purpose of the Rule and the policies that it was intended to further. Moreover, the Rule should be considered in light of the structure of the entire Federal Rules and the overarching federal procedural system.
Professor Moore explores the Court's role in the basic rulemaking framework, analyzing the modem relationship between the Court and the Congress in promulgating the Federal Rules and the role that the judicial branch plays in the process. In light of the modem rulemaking framework, she concludes that the Court will continue to play an important role in interpreting particular Federal Rules. Using Federal Rule 11 as an illustration, Professor Moore demonstrates the inadequacies of the plain meaning doctrine as a method of interpreting the Federal Rules and proposes a recommended method of interpretation that analyzes the purpose, policy, and context of a Rule.
Karen Nelson Moore,
The Supreme Court's Role in Interpreting the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
44 Hastings L.J. 1039
Available at: https://repository.uchastings.edu/hastings_law_journal/vol44/iss5/3