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Chief Justice John Roberts recently appointed Professor Zachary Clopton to the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules. This role will help the Supreme Court shape the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure guide all civil litigation in federal court. The Supreme Court of the United States adopts amendments to those rules, subject to oversight from Congress. But in practice, much of the work is handled by the Advisory Committee. The committee’s goal is to consider potential changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, research those proposals, and ultimately make a set of recommendations to the Supreme Court about any rule changes. The committee, largely comprised of judges and lawyers from around the country, typically has one law professor as a voting member.
“The academic member is thought to be someone who will bring more of an outsider and scholarly perspective,” Clopton says. “I think about civil procedure from a scholarly perspective and I hope to be able to bring that to the deliberations of the committee.”
Clopton started his duties this month and will serve for three years. The committee meets twice a year in person, primarily in Washington, D.C. although he can perform the other parts of his duties remotely. Clopton says he was honored to have received the call to serve in this way.
“In my little world, this is a big deal,” he says. “I’m really excited to get to work on this topic that I think is very important. It also means a lot to know that the Chief Justice and the people that he works with thought enough of me to nominate me to be on this important committee.” Clopton hopes to lend his expertise and learn along the way.
In the Advisory Committee’s history, many members have gone on to serve as judges, government officials, law school deans, and in other influential roles in the legal profession. Clopton’s appointment to the committee shines a light on the work that Northwestern Pritzker Law continues to do.
“We congratulate Associate Dean Zachary Clopton on the significant honor of being appointed to the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules,” said Dean Hari Osofsky. “He is ideally suited for this role as a leading scholar of civil procedure who is tremendously thoughtful and insightful and we are grateful for the important contributions that he will make.”
Clopton joined Northwestern Pritzker Law in 2019. In addition to his professorship, he is the Associate Dean of Academic Programs. His research and teaching interests include civil procedure, complex litigation, international litigation, and national security law. Clopton previously clerked for the Honorable Diane P. Wood of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He also served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Chicago and worked in the national security group at Wilmer Hale in Washington, D.C. Before joining Northwestern Pritzker Law, Clopton was an associate law professor at Cornell Law School. He was also a Public Law Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School.
“As I tell my students in Civil Procedure every year, the way that we resolve disputes—the rules of civil procedure—plays an important role in how the U.S. system goes about solving important problems,” says Clopton. “Those are important problems between private parties, but they also involve the government and public policy. These are big issues that affect everybody. Structuring that process through the rules is important to ensure that we can do our best to solve those problems.”
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