Attorneys usually think of procedure as the rules that govern practice in various courts. Thus, when we think of federal civil procedure, we think of the rules which govern the litigation of civil, that is, non-criminal, cases in U.S. federal courts. The principal rules are the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which govern practice in the federal district courts. The federal district courts are the trial courts in the American federal judicial system. Almost all federal district courts have their own rules in addition to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Thus, when litigating cases in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, which includes Brooklyn, the attorney must comply with local court rules for the Eastern District as well as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Moreover, many judges have additional rules for practice in their court rooms.
In addition to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which govern practice in the federal district courts, there are also rules for appellate practice in the federal circuit courts of appeal (the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure) and in the Supreme Court (the Rules of the Supreme Court of the United States). Federal circuit c Instructions for Paste and Spellcheck sourts of appeal also have their own rules. Thus, an attorney who appeals a decision from the federal district court for the Southern District or Eastern District of New York to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals must comply with the Second Circuit's court rules as well as the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Federal specialty courts (such as the bankruptcy courts) also have their own rules of procedure.
Federal civil procedure refers to more than just the rules. It also includes other issues, such as jurisdiction. Before a practitioner can commence an action in a federal district court, the practitioner must make sure the federal courts have jurisdiction over the claim as well as personal jurisdiction over the defendant. The practitioner also must determine where the action may be brought, e.g., is the federal district court the appropriate venue in which to bring this case? Most of the statutes which govern such issues are found in Title 28 of the United States Code (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure). A list of the most important statutes in title 28 is included in this guide.
This guide was reviewed and updated by Loreen Peritz on Sept. 21, 2023.