Below are my reading and lecture notes for lecture 1: an introduction to Civil Procedure.
Rule 1. Scope and Purpose
Technically, Rule 1 is short, only 2 sentences long. However, there are several paragraphs of notes stating why the legislative committees believed the rule should be styled as it is. Although there are all these notes, for the purpose of class, I believe knowing the rule is all that is necessary. If there is any case that requires the use of knowing the legislative history, Rule notes would then be important.
As for Rule 1, it states the purpose of all future rules, to establish the process of adjudicating Civil Procedure quickly and fairly, except for the exceptions listed in rule 81.
Rule 3. Commencing an Action
“A civil action is commenced by filing a complaint with the court.” I don’t think this can be simplified much further. The next steps are outlined in the following rules.
Article III of the US Constitution contains three sections. First, section 1 establishes a Supreme Court with lower courts. Judges are to hold their offices in good behavior and a compensation is to be set for these judges. Next, section 2 describes the cases in which the courts have jurisdiction. Along with this, the sections describes which cases has Supreme Court original jurisdiction (cases relating to ambassadors, public ministers, and state actions) and appellate jurisdiction. This section also indicates that all crimes are to be tried by a jury (except impeachment). Finally, section 3 defines treason and sets forth the punishment.
Statute 41 establishes the number and geographical composition of circuit courts. There are 13 circuits (1-11, DC, and Federal). Iowa is established in the 8th circuit.
Statute 44 states how many circuit judges are to be appointed per circuit by the President of the United States (8th circuit has 11). Other sections of the statute reaffirm the Constitution by saying that offices are held with good behavior and a salary is provided. Additionally, circuit judges must reside in their circuit, except DC and Federal (federal has to be within 50 miles of DC).
This statute establishes the number of district judges that are to be appointed by the President. Additionally, it lays out how many district courts are in each State. Finally, the statute states how to fill a vacancy for a district judge who assumes a full-time position as a “Director of the Federal Judicial Center, Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, or Counselor to the Chief Justice.”
This section appears to introduce not only the current text, but the whole book. There are some factors that are relevant to this chapter however. We will read about the two parallel courts in the American system and receive an overview about subject matter jurisdiction.
The Two American Court Systems
Although there are more than two American court systems (i.e. Native American court systems, military, etc.) we have two primary systems of conducting the law. A federal court to rule over national interests; and State courts to rule over State interests.
State Court System Structure
All states have a trial court and a higher appellate court, many states have an intermediate appellate court between the trial court and the state Supreme Court.
All complaints are filed by the plaintiff who has the ability to make claims while the defense can prepare an answer. The court can take these facts and, through a process called discover, determine which are relevant for the case. They are then tried in the trial court. There may also be smaller, more specific courts (i.e. courts about water, family law, etc.) while others are more broad.
If an answer is not liked, they can appeal to a higher court. For some states, that court is the final court who can pick and choose which appeals to hear. For other states, all appeals go to an intermediate court for a ruling. If their result is not liked, they can appeal to the State supreme court who can pick and choose which cases to hear.
Most states have different names for their courts. You can find out how a court is structured by review the legislative statutes within a state.
Federal Court System Structure
The federal court system has a similar structure. Trial courts that hear all federal trial issues (92 courts in geographical locations in all). Then, any appeal goes to a circuit court (11 circuit and 2 federal) which is mandated to review all appeals. Finally, the Supreme Court which can pick and choose which appeals to review (expect in cases of original jurisdiction). The Supreme Court can also review federal issues that were litigated in states and made it through the State Supreme Court.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction of State Courts
“Subject Matter Jurisdiction refers to the power of a court to hear disputes of a particular type.” For example, in some states, a divorce case must be held in a divorce court. Additionally, most cases have broad state jurisdiction. Also, many federal courts are narrow in which cases they have subject matter jurisdiction over. Therefore, the majority of cases are handled by the state.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction of Federal Courts
The federal court system is much more narrow when it comes to subject matter jurisdiction. The only cases a federal court can hear are those authorized by the Constitution. However, many of the cases that can be heard in the federal court can also be heard in a state court. There are very few exceptions to this principle of “concurrent jurisdiction”. There are many reasons why one may choose one jurisdiction over another (if possible), including:
- Familiarity with the court system
- Larger or smaller jury pools
- Speed of cases (federal typically goes faster)
- Having one judge assignment
- Attorney control
One last thing that I want to note is the difference between federal question jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction
- Federal question jurisdiction are cases that relate to the Constitution or laws of the United States.
- Diversity jurisdiction relates to cases where citizens of different states are at odds.
Today we focused on giving an overview of the course. There are three big things that we will review
- Personal Jurisdiction – The court’s power and authority to hear a case against a certain person or company
- Subject Matter Jurisdiction – The type of case that a court may hear.
- Venue – What’s the right court (even courthouse) to file suit.
If we combine these three concepts, our job is to find the right court for the lawsuit. Therefor, you should ask, “Should you go to a federal court, state court, which subject matter do you need, etc.?”
Precedent is the most important term for lawyers. It mean the governing previous ruling of the court within the jurisdiction.
Civil v. Criminal
All law falls into one of these two categories.
All criminal law is prosecuted by the government. It means that someone has committed a violation of law that is serious enough to remove their freedom.
Civil law is every action that isn’t criminal is civil. There are two types of remedies for civil law (what you want the court to do). 1. Ask for monetary damages or 2. Injunctive relief. This means that you are looking for a court order to direct the defendant to do something or refrain from doing something.
Complaints and Answers
All civil lawsuits begins with a complaint. A plaintiff files complaint which states their side of the story. The defendant files an answer stating their side of the story. Most answers contain a dismissal motion. Rule 12 of civil procedure contains 7 motions for dismissal. This is the defendants first chance to make the case disappear.
- lack of subject-matter jurisdiction
- lack of personal jurisdiction
- improper venue
- insufficient process
- insufficient service of process
- failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted
- failure to join a party under rule 19
The first 3 listed deal with finding the right court.
The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.