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Federal Civil Procedure : Overview & Links to Practice Pages

This guide is intended to help law students and practitioners find resources which will help them understand federal civil procedure and find applicable federal court rules. Developed by Joan Markey and updated by Loreen Peritz and Jean Davis.

Overview of U.S. Federal Civil Procedure

Litigators often think of procedural rules as the rules that govern practice in various courts.  In the area of U.S. federal civil procedure, legal researchers need to find and apply rules that govern the litigation of civil (meaning: non-criminal) cases in U.S. federal courts. 

The principal rules are the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  They govern practice in U.S. 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 U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (which includes Brooklyn), an attorney must comply with local court rules of 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, there are also rules for appellate practice in the U.S. federal circuit courts of appeal (the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure) and rules for practice in the U.S. Supreme Court (the Rules of the Supreme Court of the United States). Federal circuit courts of appeal also have their own rules. Thus, an attorney who appeals a decision from the U.S. federal district court for the Southern (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 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 U.S. federal district court, the practitioner must make sure the federal courts have jurisdiction over the claim and personal jurisdiction over the defendant. The practitioner also must determine whether federal district court is the appropriate venue in which to bring the case.  Most of the statutes governing such issues are found in Title 28 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the United States Code. A list of key statutes in title 28 is included in this guide.

When Was This Guide Last Updated?

This LibGuide was last substantively updated:

On: Nov. 10, 2023

At:  6:35 AM

By: Jean Davis & Loreen Peritz

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