Changes to the US Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the US Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure
To learn more, visit our Cookies page. This page was processed by aws-apollo2 in 0. Skip to main content. Copy URL. See all articles by Susan E. Hauser Susan E. Abstract Since the adoption of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in , Rule 15 a 1 has allowed pleadings to be amended one time, as a matter of course, within a set period of time. Hauser, Susan E. Susan E. Durham, NC United States. Register to save articles to your library Register. Paper statistics. Feedback to SSRN. Eastern, Monday - Friday. B within 20 days after serving the pleading if a responsive pleading is not allowed and the action is not yet on the trial calendar.
This language made plain that a plaintiff is allowed to amend as a matter of course at any time between filing his complaint and receiving the defendant's answer.
But the revisions did not purpose to alter the time at which a plaintiff can first amend as a matter of course. The absence of such a change is understandable: those revisions were intended primarily to remedy inefficiencies created by granting plaintiffs the unconditional right to amend as a matter of course at any time before an answer was filed regardless of how much litigation and discovery activity had occurred in the interim.
See 6 Charles Alan Wright et al. Two of these changes are arguably relevant here. Nothing else in either the text of Rule 15 or in the advisory committee's notes evinces an intent to confine amendments as a matter of course under Rule 15 a 1 B to a narrow window following service of an answer or responsive motion.
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Nor do these materials evince any intent to rescind the historic limitation of amendment as a matter of course to one such amendment per plaintiff per case. The Rule's traditional restriction of amendments as a matter of course to one per plaintiff per case was not modified.
Had the drafters intended so dramatic a change in long-settled procedure, they surely would have chosen language indicating as much and explained this change in the commentary. Here, however, the advisory committee's notes imply the contrary; they discuss changes only to the time at which the right to amend as a matter of course terminates. To say more on this point would be supererogatory. We hold, without serious question, that a plaintiff may amend a complaint only once as a matter of course under Rule 15 a 1.
It follows that the district court did not err in concluding that the relator exhausted his one-time right to amend as a matter of course when he filed his first amended complaint in February of This brings us to the relator's claim that even if he did not have an unfettered right to amend his complaint in July of , the district court abused its discretion by appraising the proposed amendment under the wrong legal standard.
While the district court might have struck the fourth amended complaint on the ground that the relator filed it without requesting leave to amend, that is not what happened. Instead, the court construed the relator's filing as an implicit request for leave to amend. We defer to this reasonable construction of the relator's filing. Invest Almaz v.
Temple—Inland Forest Prods. Having decided that the question of leave to amend was properly before it, the court proceeded to answer that question by applying Rule 16 b 's good cause standard. In the circumstances of this case, that was error. Somascan, Inc. Philips Med. Nederland, B. As we previously explained, requests for leave to amend are normally evaluated under Rule 15 a 's leave freely given standard.
When made in derogation of a scheduling order, however, Rule 16 b 's more stringent good cause standard takes precedence.
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But in this case the district court's scheduling order did not specify any deadline for amending the pleadings and, thus, the gears of Rule 16 b were not engaged. Notwithstanding this omission in the scheduling order, the court applied Rule 16 b.
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It reasoned that use of the good cause standard was an appropriate way to sanction the relator for requesting leave to amend within a matter of days before his opposition to the dismissal motions was due. This reasoning is unpersuasive. When a litigant seeks leave to amend in defiance of a deadline delineated in a scheduling order, the rationale for applying an elevated good cause standard is both obvious and pragmatic.
Were a district court powerless to enforce such deadlines, scheduling orders would be little more than aspirational statements, to be disregarded by the parties whenever compliance proves inconvenient. See O'Connell v.
Hyatt Hotels of P. In other words, the specter of Rule 16 b ' s less amendment-friendly standard acts as one of the sticks through which compliance with a scheduling order is enforced. Deployment of the good cause standard was not warranted here. Since the scheduling order in this case did not even mention amendments to the pleadings, let alone impose any deadlines for the filing of amended pleadings, moving to amend did not show any disrespect for court orders.
Moreover, the relator had neither notice that an elevated standard would be applied to his motion nor any reason to expect that it would. Basic notions of due process counsel that litigants are entitled to rely on established procedural rules—and those rules cannot be altered at a court's whim.
Landgraf v. USI Film Prods. The fact that the relator sought to amend only a few days before his opposition to the dismissal motions was due does not justify a different result. At any rate, Rule 15 a 's leave freely given standard typically applies even where a party requests leave to amend after a motion to dismiss has been fully briefed. Champion Mortg.
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If the court concluded that the relator was attempting to torpedo its briefing schedule, that conclusion could be a proper factor in its Rule 15 a 2 calculus, see Quaker State Oil Ref. Garrity Oil Co. The defendants contend that the court's failure to specify a deadline for amending the pleadings is irrelevant because the court must have thought—based on the travel of the case—that there would be no further amendments to the complaint when it issued its scheduling order.
But nothing of this sort is apparent from the record, and the relator could not be expected to divine from the district court's silence that future amendments were either off limits or would be subjected to a more stringent standard of review. See Weisburgh v. We hold, therefore, that the district court erred in applying Rule 16 b 's good cause standard to the relator's proposed fourth amended complaint. The matter of remedy remains. Ordinarily, a district court's application of an erroneous legal standard is a per se abuse of discretion, which necessitates remand.
There is, however, a narrow exception for instances in which application of the correct legal standard can lead to only one result. Where uncertainty lurks, remand is the appropriate course. Rost v. Pfizer, Inc. We cannot say with certainty that the district court would not have allowed the fourth amended complaint if it had applied the appropriate legal standard.
Rules 15 a and 16 b engender different inquiries.
See O'Connell, F. Here, the district court made no findings sufficient to permit us to predict confidently how it would have ruled under the Rule 15 a standard. Let us be perfectly clear. We do not suggest that the district court will be compelled to grant the motion to amend on remand.
After all, there are myriad reasons that might justify the denial of a motion for leave to amend, including undue delay, repeated failure to cure deficiencies, or futility. See Foman v. Davis, U. ACA Fin. Advest, Inc.
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The rub, however, is that the district court did not address these factors in any meaningful way, and none of them appears to mandate the denial of leave to amend. In the last analysis, the matter is one committed to the sound discretion of the district court, and the relator is entitled to have the district court exercise that discretion under the proper legal standard. We need go no further.
All parties shall bear their own costs. By a separate filing, the relator voluntarily dismissed his claims against the two defendants whom he had dropped in the proposed fourth amended complaint. At oral argument, the relator's counsel disclaimed any reliance on a theory that service of the complaint is required totrigger the right to amend as of course under Rule 15 a 1 A.
Accordingly, we take no view on that theory. The third change addressed the amendment of pleadings to which no responsive pleading is required. That provision is not implicated here.
Related Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 2009 (with amendments)
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