Court rules specify the procedures in each court and how they are to be followed. Court rules refer to rules of procedure and evidence in a particular jurisdiction and rules of a particular court that supplement federal or state rules, known as local rules. Local rules may provide, for example, time frames for filing court documents.
Court rules are available at the federal, state and local levels of the judicial system. Some rules originate from a legislative body such as Congress or a state legislature, while others are issued as court orders. Federal statute 28 USC §2072 gives the United States Supreme Court "the power to prescribe general rules of practice and procedure and rules of evidence for cases in the United States district courts and courts of appeal." Court rules have the force of law.
In researching court rules it is important to first determine jurisdiction and to know the specifics of the legal situation in order to find the appropriate rules. Is this a federal or state court case? In which district or circuit will the claim be filed? Will the case be tried in civil or criminal court? Once applicable rules are located, finding a treatise discussion, cases that interpret the specific points of law and advisory notes or comments are all possible next steps in the research process.
This research guide includes sources for finding federal court rules, rules for courts of special jurisdiction, Wisconsin court rules, state court rules, forms and treatises as well as websites useful for locating rules. The guide also includes information on how to update court rules and to locate materials that help interpret rules such as secondary sources and cases.
There are many resources available for finding court rules including free Internet sites, fee-based databases and print resources. This guide highlights some of the most-often used sites and resources and is not intended as an exhaustive compilation of all sources for finding court rules.