Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Last year we covered an interesting but somewhat obscure issue that came up in connection with the 2015 and 2016 amendments to Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Inconsistencies in the text of these two amendments left it unclear which kinds of service were explicitly exempted from Rule 4(m)’s presumptive 90-day deadline for serving process. The situation prompted a letter to Congress by Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton, who was then the chair of the Standing Committee, seeking to clarify what the “net effect” of the two amendments would be.
This spring, the Supreme Court approved a new amendment that will remove any uncertainty on this question. Under the 2017 amendment, Rule 4(m) will read as follows:
If a defendant is not served within 90 days after the complaint is filed, the court--on motion or on its own after notice to the plaintiff--must dismiss the action without prejudice against that defendant or order that service be made within a specified time. But if the plaintiff shows good cause for the failure, the court must extend the time for service for an appropriate period. This subdivision (m) does not apply to service in a foreign country under Rule 4(f), 4(h)(2), or 4(j)(1), or to service of a notice under Rule 71.1(d)(3)(A).
Unless Congress intervenes, this amendment will go into effect on December 1, 2017.