Joinder of Parties under Rules 19 and 24
The last two chapters analyzed the basic rules governing joinder of claims and parties in federal court. Under those rules, the plaintiff is generally “master of her claim.” She decides the initial shape of the lawsuit, by choosing who to sue and what claims she will assert against those defendants. Later, other parties may end up expanding the suit, by adding counterclaims or crossclaims. They may also bring additional parties into the case, by asserting third-party claims under Rule 14 or by adding parties to a counterclaim or cross-claim under Rule 13(h).
This chapter deals with two additional rules that may expand the lawsuit beyond the plaintiff’s initial design. First, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 19, certain persons not sued by the plaintiff may be ordered joined in the suit, if they need to be made parties to fairly adjudicate the case. Second, in certain situations, absentees—again, not sued by the plaintiff—may “intervene” in the case, that is, move to become parties on one side or the other, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 24. Although such redesign of the plaintiff’s case is unusual, it is sometimes appropriate or necessary. Rules 19 and 24 describe the circumstances in which it may happen.
Rule 19 provides a three-step process for analyzing whether a person who was not sued originally must be added to the lawsuit. The first step in the analysis under Rule 19(a) is to consider whether some person who was not joined in the original action should be made a party to it. The rule describes three situations in which such an absentee should be made a party “if feasible.” A person should be added to the case if, in the person’s absence, “the court cannot accord complete relief among existing parties.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(1)(A). Second, the absentee should be made a party if she has an interest in the subject matter of the action and her ability to protect that interest will be impaired if she does not participate in the litigation. Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(1)(B)(i). Third, Rule 19 counsels joinder of the absentee if she has an interest in the subject matter of the suit and adjudicating the case without her might leave one of the existing parties exposed to multiple or inconsistent obligations. Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(1)(B)(ii). The best way to understand these situations is to describe some situations in which each subsection might apply.