Georgetown Law
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 provide advisory committee notes and cross references to secondary sources such as treatises, practice guides, and law review articles.
  • 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).  Annotations to secondary sources in each will differ.
  • You can also access U.S.C.S. and U.S.C.A. annotations electronically on Lexis or Westlaw (see the "Context & Analysis" tab, if available).  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 secondary sources chosen by the editors of a code, citators provide you with a list of all secondary sources 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 secondary sources that merely mention a rule without substantively discussing it.
  • Federal court rules can be Shepardized on Lexis or KeyCited on Westlaw (see the "Citing References" tab and select "Secondary Sources"). 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.

Treatises

There are many treatises that analyze federal courts' procedural rules. Below are descriptions of a few of the most authoritative treatises. 

  •  Federal Practice and Procedure, 3d ed. (Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller)
    [KF9619 .W7 19980; also available on Westlaw]

    Often referred to simply as "Wright and Miller," this preeminent treatise has more than 30 volumes and provides analysis of the Federal Rules of Appellate, Civil, and Criminal Procedure, the Federal Rules of Evidence, and the statutes governing jurisdiction in federal courts. Volumes are updated with pocket parts.

    The set is arranged basically in rule number order, although its section numbers do not correspond to rule numbers. For example, §§ 1011-1030 of Wright and Miller discuss F.R.C.P. 1, while §§ 1041-1045 discuss F.R.C.P. 2. (There are no §§ 1031-1044.)

    For each rule, Wright and Miller provides the rule text, advisory committee notes, and detailed commentary on the rule. The commentary is well footnoted with references to case law. There is a single subject index covering all volumes and rule sets. The index volume also provides a table that allows the user to look up a rule number and get references to the Wright and Miller section numbers where it is discussed.

  • Moore's Federal Practice, 3d ed.
    [KF8820.A313 M63 1997; also available on Lexis Advance: Civil Volumes (Civil Index), Criminal Volumes]

    Moore's Federal Practice is a 29 volume loose-leaf treatise that analyzes the Federal Rules of Appellate, Civil, and Criminal Procedure, as well as the Rules of the U.S. Supreme Court, local rules of the U.S. Courts of Appeals, and the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty and Maritime Claims. The first part of the set is arranged in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure rule number order, with chapter and section numbers corresponding to actual F.R.C.P rule numbers. Volumes on other sets of court rules are also arranged in rule order, however, the chapter and section numbers do not correspond to the actual rule numbers. For each rule, Moore's provides the text of the rule and a detailed explanation of the rule. The explanations are heavily footnoted with extensive references to case law. Each chapter includes a "Historical Appendix" that provides the text of advisory committee notes and shows historical amendments to the rule, with dates.

  • Weinsten's Federal Evidence, 2d ed.
    [Print: KF8935 .W39; also available on Lexis Advance]

    Weinstein's Federal Evidence is a six volume loose-leaf treatise that analyzes the Federal Rules of Evidence. The set is arranged in rule number order, and its chapter and section numbers correspond to actual F.R.E. rule numbers. For example, all of the sections in chapter 101 discuss F.R.E. 101. For each rule, Weinstein‰s provides the text of the rule and a detailed explanation of the rule. The explanations are heavily footnoted with extensive references to case law. Each chapter includes "Historical Appendix" that provides the text of advisory committee notes and shows historical amendments to the rule, with dates. These appendixes also indicate any congressional action taken on the draft rules as they were proposed by the Judicial Conference of the United States. Volume 6 includes a "Table of State and Military Adaptations of Federal Rules of Evidence," which identifies state evidence rules identical or similar to each of the F.R.E.
     

  • Orfield's Criminal Procedure Under the Federal Rules, 2d ed.
    [Print: KF9619 .O74 1985; also available on Westlaw

    Consists of seven volumes analyzing the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The set is arranged in rule number order, and its section numbers correspond to the actual rule numbers. For example, §§ 44:1 through 44:27 all discuss F.R.Cr.P. 44. Orfield‰s reprints the text of each rule. It also provides detailed a detailed explanation of each rule, including a narrative of the rule‰s legislative history. The rule explanations include extensive case law citations. Volume 7 contains a subject index and table of cited cases. Volumes are updated with pocket parts.

Other Treatises

You can find other books that discuss court procedure by doing a subject search in the library's catalog using the following subject headings (after clicking below or running a subject heading search, click the topic of interest to see a list of books in our collection that deal with that topic):

* Substitute a state name for "United States" to find materials on state procedure.

 You can also refer to our Treatise Finders for other treatises dealing with specific topics (e.g. Evidence Law Treatises).

Federal Rules Decisions (F.R.D.)

Federal Rules Decisions (F.R.D.): In addition to including U.S. District Court decisions interpreting federal court rules (see the "Cases" page of this guide), West's F.R.D. also publishes articles commenting on federal court rules.