A brief guide to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure -- pretrialSince Chase-Riboud v. Dreamworks, Inc. is being heard in federal court (the District Court for the Central District of California), the procedural rules of the case are set by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which are approved by the United States Supreme Court.
Pleadings generallyThe formal written statements submitted at the opening of the trial are called the pleadings. The plaintiff first submits a complaint, then the defendant submits its answer.
The English common law and early American law contained highly technical pleading requirements, which frequently resulted in parties losing otherwise good cases for failing to meet the complicated requirements of form. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are written so as to encourage "simplified pleadings." That is, the Rules are written as much as possible to avoid a party losing his or her case because of obscure technicalities in the pleading laws. (There was a long tradition in the English common law of highly technical pleading requirements.)
The rules for pleading, and the concept of simplified pleadings, are set out in Section III of the Federal Rules.
The complaintRule 3 states that a civil case is started when the plaintiff files a complaint with the district court. The contents of the complaint are regulated by Rule 8(a), which requires:
- a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction depends,
- a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief, and
- a demand for judgment for the relief the plaintiff seeks.
The answerThe defendant's first response to the complaint is a, appropriately enough, called the answer. The format and form of the answer is set out in Rule 8(b). It requires a short and plain statement of the defendant's answers to each claim asserted. The defendant must admit or deny the plaintiff's claims, or state that (s)he does not have enough information to admit or deny.
More links to topics dealing with civil procedure.