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LRAW Research Spring 2023

Federal Court Rules

Rules of procedure and rules of evidence prescribe in detail how parties to an action in federal court must proceed to resolve their disputes.

In the official United States Code, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure are in the Appendix to Title 18.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence are in the Appendix to Title 28.

Federal rules are also included in annotated versions of the United States Code: USCA and USCS.

The best way to find case law interpreting a federal rule as to a specific issue is:
  1. Look up the federal rule in the United States Code Annotated on Westlaw, or USCS - Federal Rules Annotated on Lexis.
  2. Browse the Notes of Decisions (Westlaw) or Notes to Decisions (Lexis) to find case law annotations to that federal rule, where courts have addressed the issue.
  3. If there is a case that addresses the issue but it is from the wrong jurisdiction, use the headnotes for that case to find similar cases in the correct jurisdiction.

Citing Federal Court Rules

For instructions and examples of how to cite federal rules of procedure and federal rules of evidence, see Bluebook B12.1.3 in the blue pages for court documents and legal memoranda. Additional examples are available in
R 12.9.3 in the white pages of the The Bluebook for law review footnotes. However, do not use large and small capitals.

Use abbreviations suggested by The Bluebook or the rule itself. Do not include a date. For example:

Fed.R.Civ.P.56(a).
Fed.R.Crim.P.42(a).

Fed.R.Evid.401.

The garnet bullets in the above citations indicate spaces.

Court Rules on Westlaw and Lexis

Scenario: You have to write a memo in support of, or in opposition to, a motion for summary judgment, which is governed by Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. You want to find mandatory case law in your jurisdiction in which the court states the standard for summary judgment.

Court Rules on Westlaw

To find federal court rules on Westlaw, click Federal Materials on the homepage, then click United States Code Annotated (USCA).

Scroll down, just below Title 28, and click on Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Title 28. Judiciary and Judicial Procedure | Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for the United States District Courts

Scroll down to Rule 56, and you will see that it is listed twice. This happens when there are so many annotations Westlaw cannot fit them all in one place. In order to see all of the Notes of Decisions, open both links in separate browser tabs and repeat the process below for each one.

screenshot

Click on the Notes of Decisions tab. Then select a heading from the Table of Contents on the left. You can click the plus signs to the left of the major headings to open an outline of more specific headings. You can then view headnotes of cases that interpret an aspect of Rule 56 categorized by the heading.

Notes of Decisions > Table of Contents > I. GENERALLY II. DUTY AND FUNCTION OF COURT

If a headnote has language that seems helpful, but it is not from a mandatory case, click on the key number at the end of the headnote, and change the jurisdiction to your jurisdiction. This will help you find similar cases in your jurisdiction. See the Finding Federal Cases in Westlaw and Lexis page for more details.


Court Rules on Lexis

To find federal court rules on Lexis, click Federal, then USCS - Federal Rules Annotated.

screenshot Federal > USCS - Federal Rules Annotated

You could click the plus sign next to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and browse to Rule 56 within.

screenshot of plus sign

Or you could use the search bar to keyword search the Table of Contents (TOC) only of USCS - Federal Rules Annotated for "Rule 56" as a phrase. Searching the Table of Contents means that your results will include links to "Rule 56" where it appears as a heading, not where Rule 56 is referenced by other rules. Lexis includes all federal court rules together in one searchable database, which means you will need to be careful to select the result for Rule 56 in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, not in other federal rules.

"Rule 56" in search bar and radio button selected for Table of Contents (TOC) only / screenshot of result Rule 56. Summary Judgment under the hierarchy USCS Federal Rules Annotated > Federal Rules of Civil Procedure > Title VII. Judgment

Rule 56 is in six parts on Lexis. The text of the rule is short, but there are so many annotations, Lexis cannot fit them all in one place. To see the links to the other five parts, look under Info on the right. Click to open all six parts in separate tabs in order to see all the Notes to Decisions.

Other Parts of this Document | Part 2 of 6 | Part 3 of 6 and so on

In each of the six parts of Rule 56 go to NOTES TO DECISIONS. (You may need to first click the TOC tab to move the Table of Contents out of the way, or click on the Search Terms tab if the NOTES TO DECISIONS link is not available).

Screenshot of the Notes to Decisions link from Lexis, located to the left of the screen when researching federal rules.

Browse the headings, and click the down arrow next to a relevant heading to see headnotes from cases that interpret that aspect of Rule 56.

down arrow

If a headnote has language that seems helpful, but it is not from a mandatory case, click into the case, then use the topic trail for that headnote to find similar cases in your jurisdiction. See the Finding Federal Cases in Westlaw and Lexis page for more details.

Federal Rules & Forms Online

Current and pending federal rules, links to local rules, and court forms for all federal courts are available on the U.S. Courts website.

U.S. Courts web page for Current Rules of Practice and Procedure.

Individual court websites also include links to the federal rules, local rules for that jurisdiction, and court forms. For example, the websites for both the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit include buttons at the top for links to court rules and forms. 

U.S.District Court for the District of South Carolina Rules web page.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit web page for Federal & Local Rules of Appellate Procedure.

The U.S. Supreme Court's website includes a link to its rules, as well.

Supreme Court of the United States web page for Rules and Guidance.

 

Federal Court Rules in Print

Annotated Codes in Print

Court Rules volumes for USCA and USCS.

Both the U.S.C.A. (West) and the U.S.C.S. (Lexis) include print volumes of the annotated Federal Rules of Civil, Appellate, and Criminal Procedure as well as the Federal Rules of Evidence.

In the U.S.C.A., the court rules are with Titles 18 and 28 of the code. In the U.S.C.S., the court rules are at the end of the set.

 

 

 

Local Rules

In addition to the rules of procedure and evidence that apply to civil and criminal cases in federal courts, federal trial and appellate courts have local rules that litigants must follow. 

West publishes federal rules volumes for individual states that include both the federal rules of court and the local rules for that jurisdiction (e.g., South Carolina Rules of Court-Federal).

Federal and local rules are accessible for free online via court websites (see above) and through Westlaw and Lexis.