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Court Rules Research Guide: State 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.

State Court Rules

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

2. LLRX.com

3. National Center for State Courts (NCSC) which provides judicial branch links for each state

Rules may also be available on other free Internet sites:

1. State court's website

2. State legislature's website

3. State bar association's website

In addition, fee-based commercial databases such as BloombergLaw, Lexis and Westlaw also contain state court rules. Access is restricted to members of the Marquette University Law School community.

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.

Updating State Court Rules

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.

  • Check the relevant court's website to see if new court rules have been added. For a list of state court websites check the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) site for links to each state's judicial branches.
  • The annotated versions of state statutes sometimes publish the state's court rules. State statutes or codes may include new or amended rules. Search the Marqcat catalog for an individual state's statutes or code or search online for a state's statutes or code.
  • Check the advance sheets for the state's case reporter
  • Look to see if a state's practice resource or treatise has issued a pamphlet or supplement regarding rule amendments
  • New rules may be published in the relevant legal newspaper.
  • Search databases such as Lexis and Westlaw

 

Interpreting State 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.

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.

 

Library Map

State Court Structure Charts

Source: Court Statistics Project - National Center for State Courts