Skip to main content

Court Rules Research Guide: Federal Court Rules

Court rules govern the procedures of a court and how matters before a court are handled and processed. This guide identifies resources for locating court rules.

Federal Court Rules Quick Chart

COURT RULES

UNANNOTATED 

ANNOTATED (Print: U.S. Code Annotated & U.S. Code Service)

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Appendix to Title 28 USC Appendix to Title 28 USCA & USCS Rules Volumes
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure Appendix to Title 18 USC Appendix to Title 18 USCA & USCS Rules Volumes
Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure Appendix to Title 28 USC Appendix to Title 28 USCA & USCS Rules Volumes
Federal Rules of Evidence Appendix to Title 28 USC Appendix to Title 28 USCA & USCS Rules Volumes
Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure Appendix to Title 11 USC Appendix to Title 11 USCA & USCS Rules Volumes
Rules of the Supreme Court of the U.S. US Supreme Court webpage Appendix to Title 28 USCA & USCS Rules Volumes
Rules of the U.S. Tax Court US Tax Court webpage Appendix to Title 26 USCA & USCS Rules Volumes

Federal Court Rules

Federal court rules can be grouped as follows:

1. Rules that are national in scope:

a. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

b. Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

c. Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure

d. Federal Rules of Evidence

2. Rules for specific federal courts:

a. United States Supreme Court

b. Bankruptcy Court

c. Courts of Special Jurisdiction

3. Local rules for individual courts within the federal court system:

a. United States Courts of Appeals

b. District Courts

Court rules may be available in both unannotated and annotated versions and can be found using print resources, free Internet sites and/or fee-based databases such as Lexis and Westlaw. Access may be restricted to members of the Marquette University Law School community.

1. Unannoted Rules:

         a. United States Code 

         b. Online federal court rules available from a court's website or a site such as LLRX.com

         c. Federal Procedure, Lawyers' Edition

         d. Federal Rules Service

2. Annotated Rules:

        a. United States Code Annotated

        b. United States Code Service

        c. Moore's Federal Rules Pamphlets

In addition to print sources, federal court rules can be found on free Internet sites:

1. Legal Information Institute (LII) - Cornell University

2. LLRX.com

3. USCourts.gov

Fee-based databases that include the United States Code, the United States Code Annotated and/or the United States Code Service  also have the federal rules. Access may be restricted to members of the Marquette University Law School community.

 

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) govern the conduct of all civil actions and proceedings brought in Federal District Courts. The rules are promulgated by the United States Supreme Court and then approved by the United States Congress. The Court's modifications to the rules are usually based on recommendations from the Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal judiciary's internal policy-making body.

The Supplemental Federal Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims are included in an Appendix to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The federal district courts have jurisdiction over admiralty and maritime actions (28 USC §1333). Therefore, some United States District Courts may have Admiralty and Maritime Local Rules.

Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure govern criminal proceedings and prosecutions in the United States District Courts, the Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure

The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure govern procedure in the United States Courts of Appeals.

Federal Rules of Evidence

The Federal Rules of Evidence govern the admission or exclusion of evidence in most proceedings in the United States courts.

Federal Local Court Rules

The United States Circuit Courts of Appeal and United States District Courts provide their current local rules online. These rules must be consistent with both Acts of Congress and the Federal Rules of Practice and Procedure. A court's authority to prescribe local rules is governed by both statute and the Federal Rules of Practice and Procedure. (See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2071(a)-(b); Fed. R. App. P. 47; Fed. R. Bankr. P. 9029; Fed. R. Civ. P. 83; Fed. R. Crim. P. 57.) Section 205 of the E-Government Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-347, requires that federal courts post local rules on their websites. The Court Locator page of the United States Courts website provides a listing of all federal court websites.

Court rules handbooks published for individual states will also include federal local court rules. Search the Marqcat catalog for handbooks for individual states that are in the Marquette University Law Library collection. For Wisconsin, West publishes Wisconsin Court Rules and Procedure - Federal.

Federal local court rules are also available by searching commercial databases such as BloombergLaw, Lexis and Westlaw. Access is restricted to members of the Marquette University Law School community through individual usernames and passwords.

Rules of the United States Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest federal court in the United States. The Constitution states that the Supreme Court has both original and appellate jurisdiction. Original jurisdiction means that the Supreme Court is the first and only Court to hear a case. The Constitution limits original jurisdiction cases to those involving disputes between the states or disputes arising among ambassadors and other high-ranking ministers. Appellate jurisdiction means that the Court has the authority to review the decisions of lower courts. Most of the cases the Supreme Court hears are appeals from lower courts. The Rules of the Supreme Court govern the procedure and practice of the Court and of those appearing before the Court.

Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure

Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure govern procedures for bankruptcy proceedings.

Updating Federal Court Rules

An important part of researching Federal Court Rules is knowing how to update the rules and how to find proposed and new amendments to the rules. Proposals for new rules or amendments to existing rules are first considered and approved by an advisory committee and then the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure (the "Standing Committee"). Following approval by the Standing Committee, the Judicial Conference, the Supreme Court and then Congress must approve the amendment. For the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rules of Appellate Procedure and Rules of Evidence, the Supreme Court submits amendments to Congress which are printed by Congress as House Documents. For more information on the rulemaking process see "How the Rulemaking Process Works" on the uscourts.gov website.

To update court rules:

Interpreting Court Rules

It is sometimes necessary to determine how a court rule is to be interpreted or has been interpreted. There are a number of methods to accomplish this task, depending on the situation.

Rules may include an interpretation section on how the rules are to be interpreted generally. For example, "Rule 2 Interpretation" of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides: "These rules are to be interpreted to provide for the just determination of every criminal proceeding, to secure simplicity in procedure and fairness in administration, and to eliminate unjustifiable expense and delay." (As amended Apr. 29, 2002, eff. Dec. 1, 2002)

The recommending council or committee will sometimes provide notes printed following the rule text in a "Notes" section. Insight into why a rule was drafted or amended may be included. One example of this is "Rule 1. Scope of Rules; Definition; Title" of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. The Rule 1. text is followed by Notes of the Advisory Committee on Rules and the Committee Notes on Rules for the various amendments. This may serve as persuasive authority for how a rule is to be interpreted. The US Courts website provides access to the Records and Archives of the Rules Committee. These records may provide detailed information about intent behind proposed or recommended rule amendments.

Case law research may be needed to determine how a rule has been interpreted by the courts. The application of federal court rules to specific situations are sometimes litigated. Listed below are sources for finding cases that interpret federal rules.

Annotated Version of the Court Rules

Case Reporters and Digests

Most cases that interpret federal court rules can be found in the federal case reporters: the Federal Reporter and Federal Supplement. However, some cases are published only in specialized case reporters and digests.

Citators

A citator lists cases, statutes and other sources of law that show their history. Citators are used to determine whether a case or other authority is still "good law" and to find other authorities that have cited to a particular case, statute, regulation, etc. The two best-known electronic citation services are KeyCite (Westlaw) and Shepard's (Lexis). (Access is restricted to members of the Marquette Law School community). Using either of these services will provide citations to court cases that have interpreted court rules and to secondary sources that provide analysis and commentary.

Find a Federal Court

Locate a federal court using the Court Locator page on the United States Courts website.

Image result for us courts map

 

Library Map