Vanderbilt Law Review


Carl Tobias

First Page



The Contract with America (the "Contract") was the centerpiece of the Republican Party's strategy in the 1994 congressional campaigns. The Common Sense Legal Reforms Act (CSLRA") was the ninth tenet and a critical constituent of the Contract, which the Republican Party promised that the new Congress would vote upon within one hundred days. Once the Grand Old Party swept into office, capturing the House of Representatives for the first time in four decades, many members of Congress were expressly committed to honoring the Contract with America. Accordingly, nearly one hundred Republican sponsors introduced the Common Sense Legal Reforms Act during the initial week of the 104th Congress, and the measure rapidly progressed through the House of Representatives.'

This legislation would impose procedural and substantive reforms that could significantly affect much federal civil litigation and could have substantial systemic impacts on the civil justice process. For instance, the measure's advocates drafted and introduced the proposed legislation with little apparent appreciation for how it might conflict with a number of ongoing public and private reform initiatives, such as an earlier Congress's Civil Justice Reform Act of 1990 and the American Law Institute's efforts to adopt a Third Restatement of Torts governing products liability.

The bill's enactment, therefore, could additionally complicate the increasingly complex civil justice system. Indeed, certain of the measure's provisions may impose greater expense and delay in civil litigation, thereby exacerbating numerous current problems rather than producing the reforms' ostensible purpose of ameliorating the difficulties. These phenomena mean that the Common Sense Legal Reforms Act warrants analysis. This Essay undertakes that effort. Part II of this Essay examines the backdrop against which the proponents of the Common Sense Legal Reforms Act drafted the legislation. The Part emphasizes those continuing public and private law reform efforts with which many provisions of the measure promise to conflict.

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Civil Law Commons