Friday, December 2, 2016

Federal Rules: What's New For December 2016

On December 1, changes to the federal rules of general application become effective, if they are adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court and submitted to Congress before May 1. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court has adopted amendments to selected Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Appellate Procedure, and Bankruptcy.

One of the highest-profile changes this year involved Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which expanded the scope of warrants to search computers. As the December 1 effective date drew closer, civil liberties groups and members of Congress expressed concerns about extending government "hacking" powers, but last-minute efforts to delay Rule 41 from taking effect were unsuccessful.

The U.S. Courts website Current Rules of Practice & Procedure outlines all of the changes adopted in late April, and includes the amended rule text in various formats. Online sources for the federal rule text (such as subscription research services like Westlaw, or the free Legal Information Institute) have already incorporated these 2016 changes to their text. Printed sources in the library, such as annual handbooks or looseleaf services which reprint the federal rules, may have a slight lag time before updating. Researchers should be aware of the annual December changes to the various federal rules.

Additional commentary on the changes is available at the following sources:

For help locating the updated federal rules, or more information about federal rules in general, visit the Goodson Law Library research guide to Court Rules or Ask a Librarian.