Every state has court rules which govern the operation of its courts and, for most states, the rules are published as part of their statutes/codes. Some court rules are created by the legislature as statutes and some by court order. However, the publication methods vary from state to state. For some states the rules are published in separate rules pamphlets or in the state case reports. For example, West publishes separate handbooks for many states' court rules, including Wisconsin. See also the Wisconsin tab of this research guide.
Several free websites have collected state court rules from the various sites and provide comprehensive lists of court rules:
1. Legal Information Institute (LII) through Cornell University Law School
Rules may also be available on other free Internet sites:
Available sources for state court rules are listed in "Sources of Rules of State Courts" by Betsy Reidinger and Virginia T. Lemmon in 82 Law Libr.J. 761 (1990). It may also be useful to consult a state's legal research guide or manual as found in Appendix B of Fundamentals of Legal Research by Steven M. Barkan et al. (2015).
Many research guides prepared by law librarians at law schools across the country are available on the Internet. Perform a search using Google, or another search engine, for a law library's research guide about a specific state's court rules. One example is the Maryland Research Guide created by the Thurgood Marshall Law Library at the the University of Maryland. It provides sources for Maryland Court Rules. Many similar guides exist for other states.
Treatises on state civil and criminal practice have been published for many states. Search a law library's catalog for titles in its collection. Marqcat can be searched for Marquette University Law Library's holdings.
Many states have adopted court rules modeled after the federal court rules. Therefore, if the relevant rules provision is known in the federal rules, the comparable provision can be checked for a state if the state rule is the same as the federal rule. For example, for civil matters the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure numbers can be used to find relevant state rules. The circuit volume (Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals includes Wisconsin) of Federal Procedure, Lawyers' Edition compares the provisions of the federal rules to the court rules or statutes for each state within the circuit. Many states have rules of evidence modeled after the Federal Rules of Evidence. A comparison of federal and state evidence rules can be found in tables in Federal Rules of Evidence Service. Weinstein's Federal Evidence includes a chart of states that have adopted Federal Rules of Evidence with analysis of each state's provisions and case citations.
An important part of researching court rules is knowing how to update the rules and how to find proposed and new amendments to the 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.
Citations to court decisions interpreting the rules may be included in a state's annotated statutes.
Case law research may be needed to determine how a rule has been interpreted by the courts. In addition to checking a state's annotated statutes, a state's digest such as West's KeyNumber Digest for a specific state as well as databases such as Lexis or Westlaw should be checked or searched.
Rules text may include an interpretation section on how the rules are to be interpreted generally.
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. This may serve as persuasive authority for how a rule is to be interpreted.