Broadly speaking, civil procedure consists of the rules by which courts conduct civil trials. "Civil trials" concern the judicial resolution of claims by one individual or group against another and are to be distinguished from "criminal trials," in which the state prosecutes an individual for violation of criminal law.
A procedural system provides the mechanism for applying substantive law to real disputes. Such a system sets guidelines as to what information the judge or jury receives, how that information is to be presented, and by what standards of proof (e.g., "beyond a reasonable doubt," "by clear and convincing evidence," "by a preponderance of the evidence") the information will be adjudged. An effective procedural system ensures that similar cases will be treated similarly by the courts.
Although the majority of suits filed in the United States are settled before trial through negotiated settlements or arbitration, "civil procedure" strictly defined applies only in formal courts of law.
Under the U.S. "common law" system, the initial burden is on the complaining party (the "Plaintiff") to file suit in court. The Plaintiff also has the initial burden of demonstrating that she has a legitimate claim.
In the U.S., civil procedure usually takes the form of a series of rules and judicial practices. The federal courts follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; the state courts follow their own state rules of civil procedure.
In federal courts, evidentiary rules are governed by the Federal Rules of Evidence. The state courts follow their own state rules of evidence.
menu of sources
U.S. Constitution and Federal Statutes
- 28 U.S.C. § 1652 - Rules of Decision Act
- 28 U.S.C. § 2072 - Rules Enabling Act
- Search the CRS Annotated Constitution
Federal Judicial Decisions and Rules
- Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (including forms)
- Federal Rules of Evidence
- U.S. Supreme Court:
- U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals: Search Recent Circuit Court Decisions
- State Statutes Dealing with Civil Procedure
- State Statutes Dealing with Evidence
- Uniform Rules of Evidence
State Judicial Decisions
- N.Y. Court of Appeals:
- Recent Decisions on Civil Procedure
- Appellate Decisions from Other States
Key Internet Sources
- Lawsuits and Small Claims Court (Nolo)
- ABA Section of Litigation
- Federal Judicial Center Publications
- Senate Judiciary Committee
- House Judiciary Committee
- 'Lectric Law Library: Litigation Forms
Useful Offnet (or Subscription - $) Sources
- Good Starting Point in Print: Kevin M. Clermont, Black Letter on Civil Procedure, West Group (2004)
- LII Disk Materials