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Georgetown Law Library

Federal Court Rules Research Guide

This guide identifies the most important sources for finding federal court rules; it identifies the materials that help in the interpretation of those rules; and finally, suggests some sources for federal procedural forms.

Annotated Codes

  • As noted on the other pages of this guide, an annotated version of the United States Code will include references to court cases that have interpreted, applied, or discussed a rule.  The annotations provide summaries of select cases that the editors of the annotated code have chosen because they contain at least minimally-substantive discussions of the meaning of the rules.
  • The two major annotated codes are the United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.KF62 1972.U5) and United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.KF62 1927.A3).  The cases included in the annotations in each may differ.
  • You can also access U.S.C.S. and U.S.C.A. annotations electronically on Lexis or Westlaw (see the "Notes of Decisions" tab).  Select the rules that you are interested in on the left for direct links to each of these rule sets in Lexis and Westlaw.

Citators (Shepards or KeyCite)

  • Whereas annotations (above) provide you with a select list of interpretive cases chosen by the editors of a code, citators provide you with a list of all cases in Lexis or Westlaw that have cited to a rule.  Therefore, a citator's benefit is that it is comprehensive, but it may also include cases that merely mention a rule without substantively interpreting or applying it.
  • Federal court rules can be Shepardized on Lexis or KeyCited on Westlaw (see the "Citing References" tab).  Note that it is possible to Shepardize individual subsections of court rules (e.g., Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 4(a)); it is not possible to do this with KeyCite.

Secondary Sources

Treatises and other secondary sources that discuss court rules typically also highlight court cases that have interpreted the rules. See the Commentary page of this guide for descriptions of major treatises that analyze federal court rules.

Specialized Reporters

Most cases that interpret the federal court rules are published the standard federal case reporters. However, a few cases are published only the specialized reporters described below. These specialized reporters also reprint rule-related cases contained in the standard reporters.

  • Federal Rules Decisions (F.R.D.): This West reporter publishes U.S. District Court cases that interpret the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, and Federal Rules of Evidence. These cases are not reported in the Federal Supplement.  The F.R.D. also publishes articles commenting on federal court rules.
  • Federal Rules Service (KF8830 .F6): The Federal Rules Service, which is published by West, is a monthly news service reporting cases from all federal courts that interpret the Federal Rules of Civil and Appellate Procedure. Most of the cases published in the Federal Rules Service are also included in other West reporters, but some are not. Often cases are edited to cut out portions unrelated to procedural issues, so it is better to rely on other sources when possible. The cases included in the Federal Rules Service are indexed and summarized in a companion publication called the Federal Rules Digest (KF8830.1 .F43 1973; canceled in 2004), which organizes the case summaries by rule number for easy access.
     
  • Federal Rules of Evidence Service (KF8935.F4; 1976 - canceled in 2013): The Federal Rules of Evidence Service is a monthly news service reporting cases from all federal courts that interpret the F.R.E. Often cases are edited to cut out portions unrelated to evidentiary issues, so it is better to rely on other sources when possible. The cases included in the Federal Rules of Evidence Service are indexed and summarized in a companion publication called the Federal Rules of Evidence Digest (KF8935.F41; 1982 - canceled in 2012), which organizes the case summaries by rule number for easy access.