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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.

Introduction

Court rules prescribe procedures for practice in the courts. They dictate such matters as how to file a law suit, what evidence is admissible at trial, and what are grounds for appeal. There are rules of general applicability, which apply in all of the federal courts at a given level (e.g., the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply in all U.S. District Courts; the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure apply in all U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal), and local rules that apply only in the individual courts which have adopted them (e.g., the Local Rules of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland). There are also separate rules for courts with special jurisdiction, such as military courts, the United States Tax Court, and the United States Court of International Trade.

This guide begins by describing the most important sources for finding federal court rules. Sources of the rules applicable in courts of the regular federal court hierarchy (Supreme Court, Circuit Courts of Appeal, and U.S. District Courts) are described first, followed by sources of federal local court rules, then sources of rules for courts of special jurisdiction. After the sources of the rule themselves, the guide describes materials that help in the interpretation of those rules (i.e., legislative history, cases, secondary sources). Finally, the guide suggests some sources for federal procedural forms.

For a quick guide to locating the text of federal court rules (without detailed descriptions of the sources, and without information on secondary sources, forms, or case law) see the Library's Research Guide "Federal Court Rules Chart". For information on researching state court rules, see the Library'sState Research Guides.