This article is from the Legal Research FAQ, by Mark Eckenwiler with numerous contributions by others.
"Civil procedure" is the massive body of law that covers, in
brief, who gets into court and how. Civil procedure governs the
kinds of disputes (and parties) that courts have jurisdiction over;
the manner in which parties file their claims with the court; the
types of motions a party may bring to obtain a ruling, and how those
motions should be brought; the entry of judgments; the degree to
which one court must obey another's orders and judgments; and so on.
In federal district courts, proceedings are controlled by the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP or Fed. R. Civ. P. for
short); the Circuit Courts adhere to the Federal Rules of Appellate
Procedure (FRAP or Fed. R. App. P.). Both sets of rules can be
found in the appendix to Title 28, **United States Code. In fact,
Title 28 contains most of the statutes on which FRCP relies. (A
separate set of rules controls criminal procedure.)
As with rules of evidence, state courts have their own rules
of procedure. These vary widely from state to state, and in some
cases are highly idiosyncratic. In New York, which has the
oldest continuously operating court system in the U.S., the Civil
Practice Law & Rules (CPLR) are notoriously complex.
Well-structured tools for researching federal civil
procedure include the following:
- Moore's Federal Practice (looseleaf binder multi-volume set; updates
are the yellow pages up front)
- Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure (hardbound series)
- Title 28, **U.S.C.A. (annotations to statutes & rules)
In addition, a researcher may also wish to consult **Federal
Practice Digest (3d & 4th), especially under the headings "Federal
Courts and Procedure" and "Judgments".
Finally, whenever using any of the above resources, DON'T
FORGET THE POCKET PART (or supplemental paperback volume).