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A Conversation with Distinguished Professor Joan Steinman

Professor Joan Steinman photoDistinguished Professor Joan Steinman is the author of two newly revised volumes of the Wright, et al., Federal Practice And Procedure treatise. Volumes 14B and 14C of the treatise are devoted to the removal of cases from state court to federal court and to the remand of removed cases. A faculty member since 1977, Professor Steinman teaches courses in civil procedure, complex litigation, and appellate courts. She is the author of articles on removal, supplemental jurisdiction, the effects of case consolidation on litigants' procedural rights, appellate jurisdiction and other procedural issues.

How is the Federal Practice And Procedure treatise used?

Wright and Miller's Federal Practice And Procedure treatise is used by law students, lawyers, staff attorneys and law clerks to judges, as well as by judges and professors, who seek a detailed overview of federal procedural law and an excellent start in doing legal research into such matters.

The text provides both overview and expert analysis, while the extensive footnotes provide citations to legislation and codified rules, scholarship, American Law Institute positions, and, most of all, case law that attorneys, whatever their role, can rely upon in their research into and study of an area of procedural law. The treatise as a whole covers criminal procedure, civil procedure, jurisdiction and related matters, and evidence as well.

How did you become involved in authoring the removal volumes?

A good many years ago, I received a phone call from Mary Kay Kane, who was a professor and dean at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She had been working on the treatise for many years and was familiar with a number of articles I had written.

Mary Kay asked whether I would be interested in taking on the volume on venue. I told her, sincerely, that I felt honored to be asked to work on the treatise because I think it is an outstanding publication and because most of the authors teach at top-tier schools, but that I thought I'd die of boredom if I had to read and write about all the cases on venue. I asked whether any other volumes were available.

Mary Kay knew that I had written a lot about removal and remand, and she said she would ask Arthur Miller if he would be willing to give up those volumes. He agreed, and so I started to do the annual supplements to the two volumes on those subjects.

How do the new editions differ from previous editions?

Wright & Miller doesn't do a second edition, a third edition, and the like, as such. But, on a rolling basis, authors constantly revise and replace old volumes.

The publisher's choice of volumes to be replaced depends on such things as how long ago a volume last was published and how much the pertinent law has changed. The latter is determined by whether important statutory or Rule changes have been made, whether significant Supreme Court cases have been decided, and generally how much the lower federal courts have been developing the pertinent law. When a pocket part has had to become an independent supplement, and the supplement has gotten awfully big, it's usually time to replace the volume itself.

The new volume will reflect the writing style of the current author. More important, it will reflect the new author's integration of developments into the preexisting text, which may require substantial rewriting.

The new volume will expand the treatment of areas of law in which there have been significant developments. It will discuss all of the relevant U.S. Supreme Court cases and noteworthy cases from the courts of appeals and district courts as well. It will, of course, also integrate into the footnotes the citations of cases decided since the last revision, and it will eliminate citations to older cases that no longer enjoy much precedential or persuasive value.

Although the treatise once aimed to be utterly exhaustive in its citation of cases, the explosion of law has made that goal impractical. The publisher now believes that the treatise's special value lies in the expertise that its authors bring to bear in their analyses and in their views as to the best of competing interpretations of the law.

What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about this process?

A project like this involves an endless amount of extremely detail-oriented work; that poses its own challenge, because you want everything to be right. But the reward comes in knowing that when you bring cases or other developments in the law to the attention of the readers of the volumes, and when you analyze where those developments fit into the fabric of doctrine, how those developments move the law, and whether they are desirable or undesirable, you are in a position to influence the thinking of countless lawyers and scholars, judges and legislators.

Your influence derives from a combination of the reputation of the treatise—which is a legacy created by others—and the thoroughness and cogency of your own thinking. That's what's most exciting to me about being part of Wright & Miller.