Thesis Director: Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science
Thesis Committee Member: Thomas Smith, Ph.D., Director, University Honors Program Associate Professor of Political Science
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Though they originated as an insubstantial entity, United States Federal Courts have become a virtual force as precedent setting tools to regulate various facets of society from business to civil rights. Much of this metamorphosis can be attributed to their procedural rulebook, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Such a large component of forming the nation’s legal interpretations and traditions warrants evaluation to reveal its underlying principles and goals. America’s jurisprudential history is plagued with philosophical battles, among these is a continual debate over the principles of access versus efficiency in an attempt to pick a side. Over time, the answer has alternated and evolved but not without social effects. As such, being informed on any negative impact the functions of our court systems may have is important for academic, legal, and civic communities alike. This research aims to contribute to current literature by revealing through history and precedent the impact of procedure on litigation in federal courts while assessing its current state through rule amendments. Though founded on principles of access and ease, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have through modern re-interpretation, become a barrier to court access for average litigants. In practice, not only does this violate the spirit of the rules, but it is also a precarious possibility for those with challenging claims or suing more resourced defendants. This makes for a highly salient flaw which is revealed to be the result of a distinct modern leaning towards philosophical principles of efficiency, sustained in the most recent and highly contentious 2015 amendments. Tracing the process of producing these displays that responsive democracy in the arena of judicial rulemaking is alive and well, but not for those in favor of judicial access.
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Thornton, Tiffani K., "The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: An Illustration of the Tension between Access and Efficiency in American Courts" (2015). USFSP Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate). 215.