Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 2 says "[t]here is one form of action - the civil action[,]" which abolishes the legal/equity distinction. Today, in actions that would have been "at law" in 1791, there is a right to a jury; in actions that would have been "in equity" in 1791, there is no right to a jury. However, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 39(c) allows a court to use one at its discretion. To determine whether the action would have been legal or equitable in 1791, one must first look at the type of action and whether such an action was considered "legal" or "equitable" in 1791. Next, the relief being sought must be examined. Monetary damages alone were purely a legal remedy, and thus entitled to a jury. Non-monetary remedies such as injunctions, rescission, and specific performance were all equitable remedies, and thus up to the judge's discretion, not a jury. In Beacon Theaters v. Westover, 359 U.S. 500 (1959), the U.S. Supreme Court discussed the right to a jury, holding that when both equitable and legal claims are brought, the right to a jury trial still exists for the legal claim, which would be decided by a jury before the judge ruled on the equitable claim. Following the English tradition, U.S. juries have usually been composed of 12 jurors, and the jury's verdict has usually been required to be unanimous. However, in many jurisdictions, the number of jurors is often reduced to a lesser number (such as five or six) by legislative enactment, or by agreement of both sides. Some jurisdictions also permit a verdict to be returned despite the dissent of one, two, or three jurors. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 48 states that a federal civil jury must begin with at least 6 and no more than 12 members, and that the verdict must be unanimous unless the parties stipulate otherwise. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) govern civil procedure (i.e. for civil lawsuits) in United States district (federal) courts. The FRCP are promulgated by the United States Supreme Court pursuant to the Rules Enabling Act, and then the United States Congress has 7 months to veto the rules promulgated or they become part of the FRCP. The Court's modifications to the rules are usually based upon recommendations from the Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal judiciary's internal policy-making body. Although federal courts are required to apply the substantive law of the states as rules of decision in cases where state law is in question, the federal courts almost always use the FRCP as their rules of procedure. (States may determine their own rules, which apply in state courts, although most states have adopted rules that are based on the FRCP.) The Rules, established in 1938, replaced the earlier Field Code and common law pleading systems. Significant revisions have been made to the FRCP in 1948, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1980, 1983, 1987, 1993, 2000, and 2006. (The FRCP contains a notes section that details the changes of each revision since 1938, explaining the rationale behind the language). The revisions that took effect in December 2006 made practical changes to discovery rules to make it easier for courts and litigating parties to manage electronic records. The FRCP were completely rewritten, effective December 1, 2007, under the leadership of a committee headed by law professor and editor of Black's Law Dictionary, Bryan A. Garner, for the avowed purpose of making them easier to understand. The style amendments were not intended to make substantive changes in the rules.