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.

About this Guide

This guide covers important sources for finding federal court rules as well as materials that help in the interpretation of those rules (i.e., federal rules' legislative history, cases interpreting federal rules, secondary sources) and federal procedural forms.

For a quick list of sources where you can find the text of federal court rules themselves (without detailed descriptions of the sources, and without information on secondary sources, forms, or case law) see our Quick Reference Chart, below

For information on researching state court rules, see our State Research Guides.

Understanding Federal Court Rules

Court rules prescribe procedures for practice in the courts. They answer such questions as:

  • How is a suit filed in that court? 
  • What evidence is admissible at trial?
  • What are grounds for appeal?

There are two basic types of federal court rules:

  • rules of general applicability, which apply in all of the federal courts at a given level (e.g., the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which apply in all U.S. District Courts; or the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, which 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, which apply only in that specific district court).  These can either supplement or replace rules of general applicability in that court.

There are also separate rules for federal courts with special jurisdiction, such as military courts, the United States Tax Court, and the United States Court of International Trade.

Artificial Intelligence and Federal Rules

On the Statutes and Court Rules page, on the bottom right, Westlaw has a section on AI-related Court Rules which allows you to find court rules and standing orders relating to the permissible use of artificial intelligence in the production of legal filings.It's very important to consult all applicable rules of practice prior to filing documents that rely on AI-based tools.

Similarly, Lexis has a court rules tracker for information about the use of AI. This tracker identifies the various civil litigation rules and procedures impacted by the recent explosion of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools available to and used by litigators and courts across the country, organized federally and by state.

Quick Reference Chart

This chart provides a quick guide to the most convenient sources of federal court rules in the Georgetown Law Library, on the Web, and on Lexis and Westlaw. This is not a comprehensive list of sources.  For detailed guidance, refer to one of the other pages of this guide (refer to the Contents, top left).

Rules Quick Locations
U.S. Supreme Court
Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
Federal Rules of Evidence
Local Rules of Federal District Courts, Bankruptcy Courts, and Courts of Appeals
  • Web: Section 205 of the E-Government Act of 2002 (Pub. L. No. 107-347) requires that federal courts post local rules on their websites. Use the Court Website Links directory to locate the website of a specific federal court.
  • Westlaw:
    • Rules of each of the Courts of Appeals can be found with the USCA (scroll to list of circuits, located between Titles 28 and 29).  
    • To find the rules of a federal district or bankruptcy court, visit the Federal Local Court Rules page and select a state or territory, then a court.
  • Lexis:
    • Rules of the Courts of Appeals can be found in USCS - Federal Rules Annotated (scroll to list of circuits towards bottom of page).  
    • To find the rules of a federal district or bankruptcy court from the main page, select the "State" tab (in the Explore Content box), choose your state, and click the Table of Contents icon () beside "state and federal court rules"  (or equivalent), which will be located under the "Statutes & Legislation" heading.  You can now scroll to the specific court to browse its rules or add them as a search filter.
Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions
Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure
Rules of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims
Ruleof the U.S. Court of International Trade
Rules of the U.S. Tax Court
Rules of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
Rules of the [Military] Courts of Criminal Appeals 
Rules for Courts-Martial and Rules of Military Evidence


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Update History

Created 1/2006 (SB)
Updated 4/2024 (MK)