Vanderbilt Law Review


Milton D. Green

First Page



The adoption of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 1938 maybe regarded as one of the great landmarks of procedural reform in the United States. The many innovations and improvements over prior practice which were effected are well known. Not the least of these was the achievement of uniformity of procedure in all of the federal district courts of the United States, replacing the chaotic confusion which had existed under the Conformity Act.' Although the Federal Rules were addressed primarily to practice and procedure in the district courts, they also dealt with certain aspects of appellate practice. This was inevitable. As Professor Sunderland has said, "Everything done in a court of appeal is the result of something done in the court below.' Consequently the rules for the district courts quite properly provided for such matters as laying a foundation for review, preparation of the record, and the mechanics of transferring the case to the reviewing court. As in the case of the rules relating to trial court procedure, these rules regarding appellate practice brought nation-wide uniformity, but they did much more. Until the advent of the new rules appellate practice in the federal courts was "one of the most complicated and trouble--some procedures in all the history of jurisprudence ...unbelievably technical and expensive, full of pitfalls and dangers to the unwary,and needlessly burdensome to litigants, to attorneys and to the courts.' The new rules cut through technicalities, simplified, modernized and reduced the number of jurisdictional steps for the perfecting of an appeal to one-the filing of a notice of appeal. Failure to take any of the other steps, or mistakes made along the way, were no longer fatal. Thus a great step forward was taken in the simplification of the appellate process--at least in the district courts.