Rule 57


Rule 57. Declaratory Judgment

These rules govern the procedure for obtaining a declaratory judgment under 28 U.S.C. §2201. Rules 38 and 39 govern a demand for a jury trial. The existence of another adequate remedy does not preclude a declaratory judgment that is otherwise appropriate. The court may order a speedy hearing of a declaratory-judgment action.

(As amended Dec. 29, 1948, eff. Oct. 20, 1949; Apr. 30, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1937

The fact that a declaratory judgment may be granted “whether or not further relief is or could be prayed” indicates that declaratory relief is alternative or cumulative and not exclusive or extraordinary. A declaratory judgment is appropriate when it will “terminate the controversy” giving rise to the proceeding. Inasmuch as it often involves only an issue of law on undisputed or relatively undisputed facts, it operates frequently as a summary proceeding, justifying docketing the case for early hearing as on a motion, as provided for in California (Code Civ.Proc. (Deering, 1937) §1062a), Michigan (3 Comp.Laws (1929) §13904), and Kentucky (Codes (Carroll, 1932) Civ.Pract. §639a–3).

The “controversy” must necessarily be “of a justiciable nature, thus excluding an advisory decree upon a hypothetical state of facts.” Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 297 U.S. 288, 325, 56 S.Ct. 466, 473, 80 L.Ed. 688, 699 (1936). The existence or nonexistence of any right, duty, power, liability, privilege, disability, or immunity or of any fact upon which such legal relations depend, or of a status, may be declared. The petitioner must have a practical interest in the declaration sought and all parties having an interest therein or adversely affected must be made parties or be cited. A declaration may not be rendered if a special statutory proceeding has been provided for the adjudication of some special type of case, but general ordinary or extraordinary legal remedies, whether regulated by statute or not, are not deemed special statutory proceedings.

When declaratory relief will not be effective in settling the controversy, the court may decline to grant it. But the fact that another remedy would be equally effective affords no ground for declining declaratory relief. The demand for relief shall state with precision the declaratory judgment desired, to which may be joined a demand for coercive relief, cumulatively or in the alternative; but when coercive relief only is sought but is deemed ungrantable or inappropriate, the court may sua sponte, if it serves a useful purpose, grant instead a declaration of rights. Hasselbring v. Koepke, 263 Mich. 466, 248 N.W. 869, 93 A.L.R. 1170 (1933). Written instruments, including ordinances and statutes, may be construed before or after breach at the petition of a properly interested party, process being served on the private parties or public officials interested. In other respects the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act affords a guide to the scope and function of the Federal act. Compare Aetna Life Insurance Co. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 57 S.Ct. 461 (1937); Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Ry. v. Wallace, 288 U.S. 249 (1933); Gully, Tax Collector v. Interstate Natural Gas Co., 82 F.(2d) 145 (C.C.A.5th, 1936); Ohio Casualty Ins. Co. v. Plummer, 13 F.Supp. 169 (S.D.Tex., 1935); Borchard, Declaratory Judgments (1934), passim.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1948 Amendment

The amendment substitutes the present statutory reference.

Committee Notes on Rules—2007 Amendment

The language of Rule 57 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Civil Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only.

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