Federal court rules govern conduct and procedure in the federal courts. They proscribe such things as how a suit is filed, admissible evidence, and the grounds for appeal. There are two basic types of federal court rules:
There are also rules for federal courts with special jurisdiction, such as the U.S. Tax Court, that only apply in the specialized court that adopted the rules.
The system of federal court rules began with the Rules Enabling Act of 1934. The Act authorized the Supreme Court to promulgate rules of procedure, which have the force and effect of law. Over time, the work and oversight of the rulemaking process was delegated by the Court to committees of the Judicial Conference, the principal policy-making body of the U.S. Courts.
The U.S. Courts website provides detailed information on how the federal rulemaking process works and provides insight to the actions of the Judicial Conference committees, including the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure and its five advisory rules committees.
Documents that chronicle the history of the federal court rules can aid in the interpretation of a rule. The U.S. Courts website makes access to much of this documentation available through the Records and Archives of the Rules Committees.
Archived Rules Suggestions
The Advisory Rules Committees evaluate past suggestions to amend the Federal Rules of Practice and Procedure in the first instance. This archive includes suggestions received from 2000-present and can be sorted by name of the submitting individual or organization, date submitted, committee, rule/form, and status.
Archived Rules Comments
The archives contain public comments received on proposals to amend the Federal Rules of Practice and Procedure between 2001 and 2013. Beginning with the August 2013-14 public comment period, proposed changes to the Federal Rules and Forms were published on Regulations.gov. Archived changes and comments published after August 2013 can still be reviewed, however, via the Archive of Proposed Rule and Form Amendments on Regulations.gov.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts archives and maintains the Standing Committee Reports to the Judicial Conference and Advisory Committee Reports. Reports from 1937-present are available and can be sorted by title, date, or committee name.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts archives and maintains the meeting minutes of the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules and Practice and Procedure and the advisory committees. Minutes from 1935-present are available and can be sorted by title, date, or committee name.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts archives and maintains the agenda books of the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules and Practice and Procedure and the advisory committees. Agenda books from 1993-present are available and can be sorted by title, date, or committee name.
Reports of the Proceedings - Judicial Conference of the U.S.
A Report of the Proceedings is issued after each meeting of the Judicial Conference of the U.S. that details actions taken, who was present at the meeting, and other information shared. Reports from the beginning of the Conference are available.
An annotated code is a good way to find court cases that have interpreted, applied, or discussed a federal court rule. There are two annotated federal codes: the United States Code Service (USCS) published by LexisNexis and United States Code Annotated (USCA) published by West.
USCS and USCA provide annotations with historical notes, which give the date of enactment, the public law number, and the Statutes at Large cite for eachU.S.Code section. There are also brief comments about amendments made to the statute.
A Notes and Decisions section follows which contains brief abstracts of cases discussing the particular statute. The USCS includes judicial and administrative decisions, while USCA contains judicial decisions only. USCA is more comprehensive in the judicial decisions it includes. The USCS does not include all decisions on the statute; it excludes those that are obsolete or repetitive.
United States Code Service (USCS)
United States Code Annotated (USCA)
A citator service can provide you with a list of all cases that cite to a specific court rule within a database. There are two very reliable citator services: Shepard’s on Lexis and KeyCite on Westlaw.
The Law of Federal Courts
This treatise explains the US federal court structure and procedure. Some topics covered include: federal questions, structure, jurisdiction, venue, diversity of citizenship, and procedure in federal courts.
Federal Practice & Procedure
Most often referred to by its authors, Wright and Miller, provides in-depth analysis of each federal rule as applied by the courts. Also includes citations to cases, statutes, and other relevant material.
Moore's Federal Practice
Moore's is considered one of the most authoritative treatises on federal practice. Included is the full text of the rules as well as analysis and interpretation of the rules through case law and comments.
Moore's Federal Rules Pamphlet
The Pamphlet is 4 volumes, each devoted to a set of rules. Volume 1 covers civil rules including Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, the U.S. Supreme Court Rules and the Rules of Procedure of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. Volume 2 covers the Federal Rules of Evidence. Volume 3 covers the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and Federal Habeas Corpus Procedural Rules. Volume 4 covers the Federal Judicial Code. Each volume includes commentary and case annotations.
McCormick on Evidence
McCormick provides in-depth analysis of the rules of evidence. Included is analysis of experimental and scientific evidence. Also analyzes and discusses the effect changes in modern technologies have on evidence.
The New Wigmore: A Treatise on Evidence
Wigmore is an authoritative multi-volume treatise on the laws of evidence. It provided analysis of the rules of evidence and incorporates discussion of modern elements of evidentiary practice.
Supreme Court Practice
This resource contains information on all aspects of practicing law before the U.S. Supreme Court. The authors give advice on preparing petitions for certiorari, briefs and motions. It includes checklists for filing an action in the court. There is a discussion of how to file In Forma Pauperis. The authors provide an in-depth analysis of the rules.