The Federal Circuit announced today that it is proposing a large number of stylistic and substantive amendments to the Federal Circuit Rules of Practice. The court has asked for comments from the public on the proposed amendments. If adopted, the amendments will be effective starting July 1, 2020. Here are the details.
The Federal Circuit proposed amendments to most of the rules in the Federal Circuit Rules of Practice. These amendments fall into two basic categories.
The first type of amendment is stylistic and, typically, minor. The court, in particular, is seeking to conform the style of its rules to the style used in the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, and also to use consistent style within its own rules. Examples include creating consistency with respect to capitalization, spelling out numbers, changing “pro se” to “unrepresented,” and uniformly referring to a party’s first brief as its “principal” brief.
The second type of amendment is substantive. Most of the substantive amendments, however, according to the court merely seek to clarify requirements. Examples include clarifying that an “agency” includes arbitrators in certain arbitrator cases, removing duplicative requirements, clarifying activities of trial court clerks and the Federal Circuit’s Clerk of Court, clarifying requirements with respect to petitions for writs, and explaining the court’s policies on nonprecedential and unpublished dispositions. Other substantive amendments, though, appear to add or change requirements. Examples include a requirement that certain patent information be included within patent-case briefs and requiring disclosure when a filer reuses brief language from a brief filed in a related case, limiting the number of counsel who can participate in argument, and requiring leave of court before an attorney can enter an appearance after a case has already been calendared for argument.
In sum, the proposed amendments are substantial both in number and in substance. In this regard, I should note that, above, I have listed just a few examples of the different types of proposed changes. I reiterate that the number of amendments to the rules is large and that most rules have proposed amendments. Indeed, some of the rules effectively have been rewritten. Even the Practice Notes attached to the text of a large number of the rules have proposed amendments. (The Federal Circuit Attorney Discipline Rules also have proposed amendments, but almost all of these amendments appear to be stylistic.)
To help digest the large number of proposed changes, the court provided a notice and summary of the proposed amendments, a redlined copy of the current rules to show the proposed amendments, and a clean copy of the rules with the amendments.
While the Court’s Advisory Council has a role in reviewing and providing feedback to the court on proposed rule changes, the court is also soliciting feedback from the public. The court announced that “[p]ublic comments must be received by the Clerk of Court on or before May 27, 2020, and may be submitted either by email to FederalCircuitRules@cafc.uscourts.gov or by mail to Proposed Rules Comments 2020, Clerk’s Office, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, 717 Madison Place, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20439.”