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Court Rules Research Guide: Getting Started: 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.

Getting Started: Court Rules

Court rules specify how procedures in each court are to be followed. Generally, the rules provide uniformity for court procedures and regulate all aspects of litigation. Court rules refer to two types of rules: 1) rules of procedure and evidence in a particular jurisdiction and 2) rules established by a particular court that supplement federal or state rules, known as local rules. Local rules may provide, for example, how documents are to be filed, time frames for filing and whether television cameras are permitted.

Court rules exist at all levels of the judicial system: federal, state and local. Some rules originate from a legislative body such as Congress or a state legislature, while others are issued as court orders. For example, 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 which rules apply to the specific situation. Will the claim be filed in federal or state court? In which district? Will the case be tried in civil or criminal court? Once an applicable rule or rules are located, finding a treatise discussion, interpretive cases and advisory notes or comments would be the 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, treatises, websites locating rules and sources for federal forms. The guide also includes information in locating materials that help interpret rules such as secondary sources and cases.

There are many methods for finding court rules including using 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. Rather, the contents of this research guide are intended to assist the researcher in locating court rules and other related resources.