Unfortunately this panel fell so soon after last week's bench bar that I was not able to get a post up on it ahead of time, but I was fortunate to be able to pinch-hit moderating a distinguished panel yesterday morning in Houston on the subject of federal courts and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure at the State Bar's 2014 Advanced Civil Trial course.
The panelists included U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal of the Southern District of Texas – Houston Division, Associate Dean Lonny Hoffman of the University of Houston Law Center and distinguished practitioners Richard W. Mithoff, Jr. and Murray J. Fogler, both of Houston.
We spent most of our time talking about the upcoming amendments to the Federal Rules of Procedure (even though they will not take effect until December 1, 2015) which deal with discovery and document preservation, but also covered other topics including pleadings, and technology for hearings. I hope to get a summary of the current state of the proposals up soon, but in the meantime, here's a quick summary of the salient points:
- "Proportionality" added to the definition of scope of discovery;
- No new limits on number of written discovery (there had been some proposed); and
- Rule 37 on sanctions for failure to preserve documents rewritten
Lonny Hoffman provided an outstanding summary of the rule proposals for attendees, which was followed by valuable insights from Judge Rosenthal, who, as a former chair of both the advisory committee on the FRCPs and the standing committee which oversees all of the federal rules, is a veteran of the rulemaking process. Richard, Murray and I sounded the requisite notes of alarm for the practicing bar for any rule changes, since of course everything was better back in the old days (am I getting old, or what?).
Judge Rosenthal also informed us on the new Fifth Circuit pattern jury instructions which are hot off the presses, metaphorically speaking, as well as the new employment law pattern discovery requests which are available for use nationwide. (I don't have a link for the latter, so if any employment lawyers reading this know where they are located, please shoot me an email and I will post it).
It was a very enjoyable panel, and I really appreciated the opportunity to work with these distinguished members of the bench and bar. Nonetheless, after three trips to Dallas and one trip to Houston in the last eight days (some of which were distinctly happier than others), I am very glad to be back in the office and relatively undisturbed for a few days to catch up.