The resolution of substantive disputes is the responsibility that legal scholars, additional federal court observers and the public most closely associate with the United States Courts of Appeals. It is important to remember, however, that circuit judicial councils in each of the courts also discharge significant duties. These obligations are principally administrative, although their comprehensive implementation can be critical to the effective operation of the appellate courts and to the federal district courts within the circuits' purview. The review of local district procedures for consistency and redundancy with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Acts of Congress is one important responsibility that Congress and the Supreme Court have assigned circuit judicial councils. Despite the duty's significance, relatively few of the councils have fully complied with their obligations to scrutinize the local procedures adopted by districts and judges within their jurisdiction and to abolish or modify those measures that conflict with or duplicate the Federal Rules or statutes. The comparatively limited implementation accorded these responsibilities warrants analysis. This article undertakes that effort by emphasizing effectuation of these duties in the Eighth Circuit.
The piece first briefly examines the provisions in the Judicial Improvements and Access to Justice Act of 1988 (JIA) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 83, which require circuit judicial councils to conduct local procedural review, as well as considers implementation of those obligations in the circuits. The article then evaluates how the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has discharged these responsibilities. Finding that the circuit council has partially complied with the commands imposed, the article concludes with suggestions for efficaciously fulfilling the council's duties.
Carl Tobias, Local Procedural Review in the Eighth Circuit, 1 J. App. Prac. & Process 101 (1999)