The Fourth Era of American Civil Procedure

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Every contemporary American lawyer who has engaged in litigation is familiar with the now fifty-four-volume treatise, Federal Practice and Procedure. Both of that treatise’s named authors, Charles Alan Wright and Arthur Miller, have mourned the death of a Federal Rules regime that they spent much of their professional lives explaining and often celebrating. Wright shared a sense of gloom about federal procedure that he compared to the setting before World War I. Miller has also published a series of articles that chronicled his grief.

We agree that something has fundamentally changed. In fact, we believe that we are in the midst of what should be labeled a new era—the fourth in the history of American civil procedure. The first three eras are rather conventional: the first era began with the country’s founding; the second era began in the middle of the nineteenth century with the introduction of code pleading; and the third era commenced in 1938 with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

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