Alaska Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure

Alaska Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure

1. Jurisdiction

  • Subject-Matter Jurisdiction: The authority of a court to hear cases of a particular type or cases relating to a specific subject matter. In federal courts, it includes federal question jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction.
    • Federal Question Jurisdiction: Arises when a plaintiff’s claim is based on a violation of the federal law (28 U.S.C. § 1331).
    • Diversity Jurisdiction: Applicable when the plaintiff and defendant are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 (28 U.S.C. § 1332).
  • Personal Jurisdiction: The power of a court to require a party or a witness to come before the court. It encompasses the geographical area where the court has authority to decide cases.
    • International Shoe Co. v. Washington (326 U.S. 310): Established the minimum contacts test for personal jurisdiction, where a defendant must have “minimum contacts” with the forum state for the jurisdiction to be appropriate. The contacts must be such that maintenance of the suit does not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”
  • Venue: Refers to the proper or most convenient geographical location for a trial to occur. Venue rules are governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

2. Pleadings

  • Complaint: The initial pleading that starts a civil action and states the basis for the court’s jurisdiction, the basis for the plaintiff’s claim, and the demand for relief.
  • Answer: The defendant’s response to the complaint, which includes admissions, denials, and any affirmative defenses.
  • Reply: A plaintiff’s response to a defendant’s answer when it contains a counterclaim.
  • Rule 12(b) Motions: Includes various defenses a defendant can raise in response to a complaint, such as lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, failure to state a claim, etc.

3. Pretrial Procedures

  • Discovery: The pretrial process where parties obtain evidence from one another or from third parties. Includes interrogatories, depositions, requests for admission, and production of documents.
  • Summary Judgment: A pretrial ruling that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56).
  • Alaska Specific Rule: Alaska Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides for summary judgment similar to the federal rule, but it may have unique interpretations in Alaska courts.

4. Trial Procedures

  • Jury Selection: The process of selecting a jury from the pool of available jurors. Involves voir dire, where potential jurors are questioned to identify any biases.
  • Direct and Cross-Examination: The questioning of witnesses by the party who called them (direct) and then by the opposing party (cross).
  • Motion for Directed Verdict: A request for the court to rule that the other party has not proven its case and that there is no need for the jury to deliberate.

5. Post-Trial Motions

  • Motion for New Trial: A request to the court for a new trial due to serious errors that occurred during the trial.
  • Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (Renewed Motion for Directed Verdict): After the jury has reached its verdict, the losing party may ask the court to overturn the verdict on the grounds that no reasonable jury could have reached that conclusion.

6. Appellate Review

  • Standard of Review: Determines the degree of deference given to the trial court by the appellate court. Includes de novo, abuse of discretion, and clearly erroneous standards.
  • Final Judgment Rule: Appeals are generally only allowed from final judgments that resolve all issues for all parties (28 U.S.C. § 1291).

7. Res Judicata (Claim Preclusion) and Collateral Estoppel (Issue Preclusion)

  • Res Judicata: A final judgment on the merits bars further claims by parties or their privies based on the same cause of action.
  • Collateral Estoppel: Once an issue of fact has been determined by a valid and final judgment, that issue cannot be relitigated between the same parties in future litigation.

8. Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure

  • Unique Procedural Rules: Alaska has its own Rules of Civil Procedure that may have specific requirements or deviations from the Federal Rules. It is important to consult the Alaska Rules for any state-specific procedures.

9. Important Alaska Cases

  • Alaska Supreme Court decisions: It’s vital to examine and understand recent Alaska Supreme Court decisions that interpret the Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure, as these will be highly relevant to the practice of civil procedure in the state.

In preparing for your final exam, focus on mastering fundamental concepts and ensuring you understand how Alaska law may diverge from federal law in certain aspects of civil procedure. Make use of practice problems, past exam questions, and study groups to test your knowledge and application skills.

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