The Criminal Rules Enabling Act

Max Minzner *

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure form the backbone of criminal litigation in U.S. District Courts. Federal courts have frequently considered the constitutional validity of various rules. In addition to the Constitution, though, the Criminal Rules face another important limit on their scope: The Rules Enabling Act (the “REA”). Like the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Civil Rules”) and the Federal Rules of Evidence, Congress constrained the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (“Criminal Rules”). Section 2072(a) limits all three sets of rules to questions of “practice and procedure” while § 2072(b) commands that the rules not “abridge, enlarge or modify any substantive right.” In judicial opinions and academic literature, the effect of this restriction on the Criminal Rules has been largely unstudied.

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*     Associate Professor, University of New Mexico School of Law. J.D., 1999, Yale Law School; Sc.B., 1996, Brown University