Those of us who study civil procedure are familiar with the notion that federal civil procedure under the 1938 Rules was generally characterized by a "liberal ethos," meaning that it was originally designed to promote open access to the courts and to facilitate a resolution of disputes on the merits. Most of us are also aware of the fact that the reality of procedure is not always access-promoting or fixated on merits- based resolutions as a priority. Indeed, I would say that a "restrictive ethos" prevails in procedure today, with many rules being developed, interpreted, and applied in a manner that frustrates the ability of claimants to prosecute their claims and receive a decision on the merits in federal court. In this Essay, after discussing some of the familiar components of the liberal ethos of civil procedure, I hope to set forth some of the aspects of federal civil procedure that reflect the restrictive ethos, following up with some thoughts on whether a dialectical analysis can help us understand the nature of the relationship between civil procedure's liberal and restrictive components.

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78 The George Washington Law Review 353-373 (2010)