The 1983 revision of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 11" or the "Rule") proved to be the most controversial amendment in the long history of the Federal Rules. Many federal judges inconsistently interpreted the provision's language and inconsistently applied the Rule. The 1983 version fostered much costly, unwarranted satellite litigation over its phrasing and the magnitude of sanctions that courts imposed while increasing incivility among lawyers. Rule 11 motions were filed and granted against civil rights plaintiffs more frequently than any other class of litigant, and numerous judges vigorously enforced the provision against the plaintiffs, 'levying large sanctions on them. Most of these complications arose from the Rule as applied, not as written.
These difficulties led numerous members of the legal profession and some federal judges to urge amendment of the 1983 version. Now that the lengthy revision process has concluded and the new Rule has become effective, it is important to analyze that provision and to afford suggestions for minimizing the problems which attended implementation of the 1983 Rule. This Article undertakes that effort.
Part I examines implementation of the 1983 version. Part II then traces the amendment process that resulted in promulgation of the new Rule, identifying and employing the most reliable sources of the Rule revisers' intent. Finally, Part III evaluates the new Rule, particularly those aspects which promise to be most controversial or difficult to implement. Part III also provides suggestions for rectifying or ameliorating the complications which may attend the implementation of the new Rule by offering guidance for courts which will be applying the new Rule and for lawyers and litigants who must comply With it.
Carl Tobias, The 1983 Revision of Rule 11, 70 Ind. L.J. 171 (1994)