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Circuit Riders: Basic Legal Research

A guide for non-law librarians

Federal Court Rules

Federal rules of civil and criminal procedure and federal rules of evidence specify in detail how parties to an action in federal court must proceed to resolve their disputes. There are also federal rules of appellate procedure.

In the official print United States Code, the Federal Rules of Civil and Appellate Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence are in the Appendix to Title 28. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure are in the Appendix to Title 18.

Annotated U.S. Codes

Court Rules volumes for the USCA and USCS.

Both annotated versions of the United States Code, the U.S.C.A. (West) and the U.S.C.S. (LexisNexis), include print volumes of the annotated Federal Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedure, Evidence and Appellate Procedure.

South Carolina colleges and universities and public libraries may provide access to annotated federal court rules through subscriptions to Westlaw or LexisNexis. Some public library systems in South Carolina offer public access to Westlaw for its members. The University of South Carolina subscribes to NexisUni™ (formerly LexisNexis Academic).

Local Rules

Federal trial and appellate courts also require parties to follow local rules. Federal local rules are available in print, online through Westlaw and LexisNexis, and for free online on the court's website. 

Federal Court Rules & Forms for Free Online

The United States Courts website provides links to federal rules and forms in effect, as well as a Federal Court Finder to locate federal local rules for district courts and courts of appeal.

US Courts website's Current Rules of Practice & Procedures page.

Court websites may include links to the federal rules, local rules for that court, and court forms. For example, 
U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of South Carolina, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit provide links for court rules and forms on their websites: 

US District Court District of South Carolina website.

US Bankruptcy Court District of South Carolina website.US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit website's Pro Se Parties page..

The U.S. Supreme Court's website also includes a Rules and Guidance page.

US Supreme Court website's Rules and Guidance page.

Citing Federal Court Rules

Citing a federal court rule requires the abbreviated name of the rule and the rule number. A date is not required, as long as you are citing to the current rule. Below are examples of cites to the federal rules of civil procedure, criminal procedure, evidence, and appellate procedure. The blue bullets in the citations represent spaces.