Parties Defendant

Publication Date
June 3, 1970

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The size and complexity of the Federal Government, coupled with the intricate and technical law concerning official capacity and parties defendant, have given rise to innumerable cases in which a plaintiff’s claim has been dismissed because the United States or one of its agencies or officers lacked capacity to be sued, was improperly identified, or could not be joined as a defendant. The ends of justice are not served when dismissal on these technical grounds prevents a determination on the merits of what may be just claims. Three attempts to cure the deficiencies of the law of parties defendant have achieved only partial success and further changes are required to eliminate remaining technicalities concerning the identification, naming, capacity, and joinder of parties defendant in actions challenging federal administrative action.


1. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contain liberal provisions for substitution of parties and for amendment of pleadings and correction of defects as to parties defendant. The Department of Justice should instruct its lawyers and United States Attorneys to call the attention of the court to these provisions in cases involving technical defects with respect to the naming of parties defendant in any situation in which the plaintiff’s complaint provides fair notice of the nature of the claim and the summons and complaint were properly served on a United States Attorney, the Attorney General, or an officer or agency which would have been a proper party if named. The Department of Justice should be responsible for determining who within our complex federal establishment is responsible for the alleged wrong and should take the initiative in seeking correction of pleadings or adding of proper parties. Since the Department of Justice has acquiesced in the substance of this recommendation, it would also be appropriate for the Department of Justice and the Administrative Conference of the United States to seek an amendment of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to provide that the Attorney General shall have the responsibility to correct such deficiencies.



2. Congress should enact legislation:

(a) Amending section 703 of title 5 to allow the plaintiff to name as defendant in judicial review proceedings the United States, the agency by its official title, the appropriate officer, or any combination of them.

(b) Amending section 1391(e) of title 28 to include within its coverage actions challenging federal administrative action in which the United States is named as a party defendant, without affecting special venue provisions which govern other types of actions against the United States.

(c) Amending section 1391(e) of title 28 to allow a plaintiff to utilize that section’s broadened venue and extraterritorial service of process in actions in which non-federal defendants who can be served in accordance with the normal rules governing service of process are joined with federal defendants.



1 ACUS 32

Notes:  (1) This recommendation was not published previously in the Federal Register.  (2) This recommendation was implemented by Pub. L. 94-574.