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As a professor of procedure for many years, I know it takes extraordinary talent to make the subject compelling to students. Charles Clark could do just that. An important judge and influential legal reformer, Clark taught at Yale Law School for 20 years, electrifying students with his convictions on the meaning of seeming technicalities and the purpose of law itself. Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, who took Clark’s first-year procedure class, once said that “because of the man who taught it, there was no more exciting course in the whole law school.”

Accomplished as he was as a judge and teacher, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are what stand as Clark’s lasting monument. Historically, proceedings in federal court were characterized by an erratic conformity to state rules, an anachronistic survival of the separation between law and equity, and a failure to take advantage of the possibilities of modernizing procedure by judicial rule-making. To remedy the situation, Congress passed a statute in 1934 authorizing the Supreme Court to establish a set of federal rules. The Court, however, apparently intended to do nothing more than create uniform rules for actions of law to complement the equity rules already in effect.

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